3 officers stabbed in Jessup

Correctional workers out of hospital after inmate's assault

December 30, 2006|By Greg Garland | Greg Garland,Sun reporter

Three correctional officers were treated at a hospital and released yesterday after they were stabbed by an inmate at Jessup Correctional Institution, a maximum security prison that houses many of Maryland's most dangerous and difficult-to-handle inmates, prison officials said.

Maj. Priscilla Doggett, a spokeswoman for the prison system, said the officers were stabbed in the "hands, neck and facial area" by a 29-year-old inmate from Baltimore who is serving three life sentences plus 20 years for murder, weapons and robbery charges.

She declined to identify the inmate or the officers who were injured.

The inmate was injured during the struggle and was taken to a hospital for nonlife-threatening injuries, Doggett said.

The incident occurred about 10:20 a.m. in a dayroom prisoners use for recreation in the prison's "D" building, Doggett said. The inmate assaulted an officer as the dayroom was being cleared, she said. Two other officers -- soon joined by additional staff -- quickly jumped in to subdue him, she said.

"The institution is locked down, and we will be doing searches for other weapons," Doggett said.

During lockdowns, prisoners are confined largely to their cells and are denied most privileges.

The Jessup facility -- formerly known as the Annex -- is part of a complex of state prisons in Jessup and houses about 1,200 inmates. It is adjacent to the Maryland House of Correction, where correctional officer David McGuinn was fatally stabbed in July. McGuinn was allegedly killed by inmates wielding homemade knives who had jammed old, faulty locks to their cell doors, allowing them to get out.

Two inmates, Lamar C. Harris and Lee E. Stephens, 27, were charged with first- and second-degree murder.

Prison union officials said at the time that McGuinn had been singled out by inmates who objected to his strict enforcement of rules, and that his name had been placed on a "hit list" of targeted officers. Such lists are common, officials said.

McGuinn was one of two correctional officers killed this year -- the first in Maryland since 1984. The other correctional officer, Jeffery A. Wroten, was fatally shot with his own gun as he was guarding a prisoner at a Hagerstown hospital in January.

Two of the officers injured in yesterday's attack were new hires at the Jessup prison and had been on the job for a few months.

State officials have had trouble recruiting and retaining staff at the facility, which has frequently been the scene of inmate violence.

This month, Richard Spicknall II, who shot and killed his two children seven years ago while they were strapped in their car seats, was found asphyxiated in the shower at JCI.

A source said Spicknall, whose death was ruled a homicide, was found with a rag or towel stuffed in his mouth.

Spicknall was the fourth inmate to be killed in a Maryland prison this year.

Three other inmates at the House of Correction in Jessup were fatally stabbed in the spring and summer during outbreaks of violence. In addition, several staff and prisoners have been seriously injured in inmate attacks this year.

Knives and other contraband have been a problem in the state's prisons, and records show that drugs, tobacco and cell phones have flowed freely.

Correctional officers have complained for months about staffing shortages and Ehrlich administration policies that have emphasized drug treatment and other inmate rehabilitation services at the expense, they say, of keeping institutions safe.

State corrections chief, Mary Ann Saar, became the first Cabinet secretary of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. to announce her resignation, effective Jan. 17, after the governor lost his re-election bid last month.

Saar lost the support of rank-and-file correctional officers by failing to listen and respond to their concerns, said state Sen. James E. DeGrange Sr., an Anne Arundel County Democrat who chairs a subcommittee on public safety issues.

"There's no program that's going to work unless you've got a safe work environment," DeGrange said when Saar announced her resignation. "I think they needed a change of leadership to bring back confidence and stability for the people who are working in the trenches."

greg.garland@baltsun.com

Sun reporter Sandy Alexander contributed to this article.

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