Three inmates at a state-run prison in Jessup were stabbed - one fatally - by three other prisoners wielding homemade knives early yesterday, corrections officials said.
George Gregory, a spokesman for the prison system, said the three were assaulted about 12:30 a.m. in a dorm for general population inmates at the Maryland House of Correction, a maximum-security prison that houses some of the state's most violent and dangerous offenders.
"We took three suspects into custody and found four homemade weapons," Gregory said. "The investigation is still ongoing. State police are taking the lead because it involves a homicide."
The inmate with the most serious stab wounds - to the head and upper torso - was taken to nearby Laurel Regional Hospital, where he died, the prison spokesman said.
Gregory declined to identify the man pending notification of relatives but said he was 29 and from Baltimore. He was serving a 30-year sentence for murder, Gregory said.
Gregory said he did not have information about the condition of the other two inmates, ages 34 and 37, who were taken by ambulance to Maryland Shock Trauma Center. They also were serving long sentences for murder, he said.
General population inmates such as those involved in yesterday's attack are housed in large, open dormitories where about 90 men sleep on bunks or cots, Gregory said.
Yesterday's killing was the second this month at the Maryland House of Correction, which houses more than 1,100 inmates.
A 34-year-old inmate who was alone in his cell on a segregated tier of the prison was found dead May 12 with two puncture wounds. His death is being investigated as an apparent homicide.
Gregory said authorities have no information that would lead them to suspect that the assault yesterday is related to the earlier killing.
State prison officials have struggled to rein in violence in Maryland's prisons. A review by The Sun last year found that the number of inmate deaths by homicide in Maryland in recent years has exceeded that of states with far more prisoners, including New York.
In the fall, in an attempt to curtail the violence, the state's prisons chief moved some inmates from Jessup to a new prison in Cumberland and began a crackdown aimed at curbing the smuggling of contraband such as drugs and tobacco.
Officials say disputes over control of the lucrative trade in contraband contribute to violence in Maryland prisons.
Union officials have said that insufficient staffing, high turnover and poor working conditions make prisons less safe for staff and inmates.