Prison officials continue probe of brawl

Lockdown continues at Baltimore facility

June 04, 2007|By Jennifer Skalka | Jennifer Skalka,Sun reporter

The Metropolitan Transition Center remained in lockdown yesterday for the second day after a brawl that left 18 inmates injured.

Three of the injured prisoners were still in serious condition at area hospitals, according to George Gregory, a spokesman for the Maryland Division of Correction.

Officials declined to release the injured prisoners' names or any additional details about the possible gang fight, saying their investigation into the violent episode is continuing.

"The key to this type of investigation is cooperation among the inmates," said Mark Vernarelli, director of public information for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. "The No. 1 goal is to protect people, the staff and the inmates."

Vernarelli said that charges would not be leveled while the internal investigative unit of the department interviews witnesses and prison staff. The Sun reported yesterday that 100 men were in the exercise yard at the time of the melee.

"We don't know the motive here," Vernarelli said. "We don't know what began all this."

The clash broke out about 1:30 p.m. Friday in the exercise yard of the prison complex off Madison Street, leaving at least 18 inmates seriously stabbed or cut and dozens of others injured. Several weapons - all apparently handmade knives - were recovered after the brawl, authorities said.

No corrections officers were injured.

The center is located in an imposing Gothic structure built in 1811. A minimum-security prison, it houses about 1,700 inmates with an average of two years or less remaining on their sentences.

During lockdown, all prisoner movement in the institution is restricted except for medical appointments, Gregory said. Inmates receive meals in their cells - as opposed to in the dining hall - and all recreation and educational programs are canceled. In addition, prisoners are not allowed to leave their cells to shower or receive visitors, he said.

jennifer.skalka@baltsun.com

Sun reporters Jennifer McMenamin and John-John Williams IV contributed to this article.

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