Officers, families know job's dangers

January 27, 2006|by KAREN HANNA and PEPPER BALLARD

For correctional officers and their families, the potential for danger hangs over every shift worked at a state prison.

"It's always in the back of your mind, but you try to put it out of there. You try not to dwell on it," said Andrew Carbaugh, a correctional officer at the Maryland Correctional Training Center south of Hagerstown.

Prison officials said an inmate who was being treated at Washington County Hospital shot a Roxbury Correctional Institution officer about 5 a.m. Thursday. The officer remained in critical condition Thursday night.

"My prayers - and I know the prayers of the prison staff - go out to his family. I'm very concerned about him, his well-being," former Maryland Correctional Institution-Hagerstown Warden Lloyd "Pete" Waters said.


Waters said when one correctional officer is injured by prisoner violence, it affects the prison staff throughout the complex.

Athough they said they did not know the officer involved, the spouses and correctional officers who spoke Thursday said the shooting hit close to home.

"What you do, you say a silent prayer for that person, and you say a thank you, as well," said Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Games-Neely, the wife of a Maryland Correctional Institution-Hagerstown officer. Neither she nor her husband knew the man who was shot, they said Thursday.

As a former defense attorney, Games-Neely said, she saw prison from the inside, and she knows the dangers her husband could face at any time.

"In and of itself, it is a dangerous profession because you could be sitting there talking to someone one second, and the next instant, they could suddenly go ballistic," Games-Neely said.

When she heard about the shooting, June Mills said she immediately thought of her 19-year-old grandson who works the second shift at RCI. He started just six months ago, said Mills, who is married to a correctional officer at MCTC.

"It's very upsetting, and I don't know how to say it ... I guess it's something we live with," Mills said.

The former chief of the Hancock Police Department, Darwin Mills, choked up for a moment as he recounted how officers on his midnight shift at MCTC, learned Thursday "a brother got shot."

Mills said not everyone can handle the stress of working at a prison.

"You just have to have that little extra backbone in you, that spine. You just can't let anything fear you. You do your job," Mills said.

Mills said he tries not to worry about the dangers of the job, and he believes his grandson at RCI and son, an officer at the Washington County Detention Center, can take care of themselves.

"Like I said, you can't worry about it. If you sat around worrying about it, you'd drive yourself nuts. You can't do that. You got to do your job ... Good Lord willing, you walk out the next day," he said.

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