Inmate's death leads to 2 firings

Inquiry says officers failed to watch prisoners on Supermax recreation

Guards face no charges

July 07, 2000|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

Two correctional officers were fired yesterday after an investigation concluded that they failed to monitor a recreation outing at Maryland's most-secure prison last month at which an inmate was fatally stabbed, officials said.

Kevin McKay, who was hired two years ago, and Sharon Mathis, hired three years ago, were terminated "due to improper performance of duty" at the Supermax facility in Baltimore, according to a statement from prison officials.

"We are outraged at what happened," Jack Kavanagh, the assistant commissioner of the Division of Correction, said in a telephone interview. "The basic responsibility of corrections officers is to observe inmate activity. The officers did not perform their duties."

McKay and Mathis could not be reached for comment yesterday. They can appeal their firings through an administrative law judge.

Ronald Bailey, an official with the officers' union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 92, said he had been scheduled to meet with Mathis last evening. Bailey did not respond to interview requests last night.

Neither officer has been charged with a crime and is not linked to the slaying June 9 of Michael Allen, 20, who was serving five years for attempted murder when he was stabbed six times in the chest, officials said.

No charges have been filed in connection with Allen's death, but state police said they have identified the inmate they believe is responsible and are waiting for forensic evidence before turning the case over to the state's attorney's office to file charges.

The killing of Allen in an indoor recreation area was the first at Supermax since it opened in 1989 to hold the state's most-dangerous prisoners.

The stabbing has left many questions about security inside the Madison Street complex, where strict rules are supposed to prevent the 305 inmates from close contact. They eat in their 65-square-foot cells, have no access to jobs or programs and, until a few years ago, could only leave their cells one at a time under escort.

Last month, officials were unable to say whether a policy change led to group gatherings being allowed. Yesterday, they said groups of no more than six or seven inmates had been allowed to have recreation together for the past several years.

"That has now stopped," Kavanagh said.

Allen was found wounded about 10:40 a.m. in an area where he was one of six inmates. A homemade shank was found at the scene and is believed to have been the weapon used in the attack.

Kavanagh said yesterday that a correctional sergeant making routine inspections found Allen, who was pronounced dead in the prison infirmary.

He said officers were supposed to have been watching the group. He said investigators don't know how much time elapsed between the stabbing and the discovery of Allen, but he said it could have been as long as 40 minutes.

No motive has been established in the killing, police said. Allen's relatives could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Allen was convicted in November 1996 of robbing and stabbing a man in the neck on East Pratt Street. He was to have been released next June. Officials said he was moved to Supermax because of disciplinary problems.

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