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Prison incident is under investigation

October 21, 2004|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - An inmate who managed to get inside a hearing room at Maryland Correctional Institution-Hagerstown Tuesday with a weapon was searched before being transported to the prison, a prison official said Wednesday.

"At this point, we do not have any information that officers did not follow procedures. We will investigate to see if there was a lapse in terms of security," said Capt. Priscilla Doggett, Maryland Division of Correction spokeswoman.

A 44-year-old Maryland Correctional Training Center inmate, who was serving a 35-year sentence for assault and armed robbery, held a hearing officer hostage with a weapon made from a toothbrush and razor blades for 90 minutes in a room on the south side of the medium-security prison Tuesday afternoon before he surrendered to a negotiator.

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Doggett would not say how many times a prisoner must be searched while being transported from one prison to another, citing security concerns. She said she did not know if metal detectors were available to catch the weapon. She said she did not know what the protocol on searches was for an inmate being brought into a hearing room.

She said that the prisoner was handcuffed while being transported from MCTC to MCI-H, both on Roxbury Road south of Hagerstown, but that a correctional officer removed the inmate's handcuffs before the inmate entered the hearing room.

"Unless there is a specified reason to have handcuffs on during a hearing, the handcuffs are removed," Doggett said. She said that although the inmate was serving time for a violent crime, "many of the inmates in the facility are serving terms like that and they don't always have to be handcuffed." The inmate began serving his sentence in July 1993, she said.

She said that a correctional officer was not in the hearing room when the inmate entered because he was escorting the prisoner who had just been in the hearing room out of the room.

Doggett said that at MCI-H, there are five inmates to one correctional officer, and at MCTC there are six inmates to one correctional officer. She would not say how many correctional officers worked Tuesday, citing security risks, but she did say that there were about 2,000 inmates at MCI-H Tuesday and about 2,900 inmates at MCTC Tuesday.

"There was sufficient staff to cover the institutions (Tuesday)," she said. "Staffing patterns in no way impacted on the hostage incident."

She said that the hostage negotiation team that responded to the hostage situation came from other institutions on Roxbury Road, but that the facilities they left to assist with the hostage situation at MCI-H were not understaffed in their absence. She would not say how many people were part of the negotiation team, citing security concerns.

No charges have been filed in the incident, Doggett said. The inmate was transported following the incident to a maximum-security prison.

The hearing officer, who was treated for a knick on his neck from the razor, did not return to work Wednesday, Doggett said.

The Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services Internal Investigations Unit is investigating the incident, Doggett said.

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