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House tentatively OKs prison exposure bill

February 21, 2002

House tentatively OKs prison exposure bill



By LAURA ERNDE
laurae@herald-mail.com


ANNAPOLIS -  Correctional officers have won one battle but lost another in the House Judiciary Committee.

The committee agreed that inmates who expose themselves to correctional officers should be charged with a crime.

But the committee didn't want to give correctional officers the same protection from false accusations as teachers, firefighters and police officers.

The indecent exposure bill got tentative approval from the House of Delegates on Tuesday.

Anne Arundel County correctional officers have testified that jailhouse regulations against indecent exposure fail to protect them from repeated incidents.

Charges have been dropped when the courts ruled that the incidents there did not constitute indecent exposure because they didn't occur in a public place.

The bill, sponsored by Del. Ann Marie Doory, D-Baltimore City, would carve out an exception for prisons.

Similar legislation passed the House last year but was killed by Sen. Alex Mooney, R-Frederick/Washington.

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Mooney urged fellow members of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee to kill the bill on a 6-5 vote because he feared it would open the door to government intrusion in a private place.

Mooney is no longer on that committee.

On the issue of false accusations, the Judiciary Committee did not agree that correctional officers need to be shielded.

The bill, sponsored by Del. Sue Hecht, D-Frederick/Washington, would have required state's attorneys to review cases against correctional officers before charges could be filed. It's the same procedure that already applies to teachers, police officers and firefighters.

"I'm disappointed because I do think correctional officers are in a situation where they get a lot of inappropriate charges," Hecht said.

The vote in the Judiciary Committee was close, with eight lawmakers supporting the bill and nine opposing it.

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