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Prison study is overdue

August 03, 2006

Investigators looking into how two inmates at the Maryland House of Correction allegedly escaped their cells and fatally stabbed a correctional officer say that one suspect apparently was able to unlock his cell.

Authorities had previously believed the inmates had somehow managed to jam the mechanisms so they wouldn't lock. Now the state has hired two firms to examine and repair, if necessary, locks on the 800 cell doors.

The follow-up is nice, but in an aging facility such as this, shouldn't there have been checks of the equipment prior to this? Someone needs to be held accountable for this.

The attacks came at a time when the House of Correction was on high alert, because of rumors that inmates had planned such an attack.

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As The (Baltimore) Sun reported in its July 27 edition, the prison has long been known as "The Cut," because of all the stabbings that have taken place there.

The Sun story noted that just this year, two other correctional officers were stabbed and seriously injured and three inmates have been killed since May.

Last year, state Sen. Verna Jones, D-Baltimore, introduced a bill to launch a study of violence in the state's correctional system.

Jones told The Sun that the bill died in committee last year, but she plans to introduce it again in the Maryland General Assembly's 2007 session.

We support that idea, as long as it includes a look at what other states have done to reduce violence in their correctional systems.

We know Maryland's system isn't working as it should, but among the 50 states, one or more should have come up with a system to contain and/ or defuse violence.

Larry D. Kump, chapter president of the Maryland Classified Employees Association, told The Sun that more single cells and jobs for inmates are needed.

It's hard to disagree with that; men who are occupied and who have a bit of space they can call their own are less likely to lash out at others.

However, what about those prisoners who are serving sentences that give them no realistic chance of ever being released?

Men who have no hope are dangerous men, because they have nothing to lose. Somehow Maryland's correctional system has to provide incentives or penalties to keep them from turning their hopelessness into violence.

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