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'Corrections cocktail' bills OK'd

March 11, 1999

ANNAPOLIS - For the first time in three years, legislation to criminalize "corrections cocktails" has been approved by both houses of the Maryland General Assembly.

The House of Delegates on Thursday approved the bill by a 136-to-2 vote.

The Senate unanimously approved a similar bill Thursday.

"We haven't gotten this far before," said the House bill's sponsor, Del. Sue Hecht, D-Frederick/Washington.

Hagerstown prison guard Bradley Rogers of Hagerstown told a General Assembly committee this month that he was hit by a cocktail, a nasty mixture of bodily fluids, while working at the Maryland Correctional Training Center.

The inmate, although charged with assault, had no time added to his sentence.

Under Hecht's bill, such contact would carry the threat of up to 10 more years in prison.

The Senate version, however, is slightly different.

It excludes any blood transmitted during fights between inmates and guards.

Sen. Clarence M. Mitchell IV, D-Baltimore City, was concerned that correctional officers could unfairly use the statute against inmates.

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Although the Thursday votes were an encouraging step, they don't ensure the law will pass, Hecht said.

The differences between the two bills must be worked out by a conference committee, she said.

Maryland Secretary of Public Safety and Correctional Services Stuart O. Simms said the law is needed.

- Laura Ernde

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