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Prison locked down following fights

June 15, 2007|By KAREN HANNA and ERIN JULIUS

The Maryland Correctional Institution south of Hagerstown was locked down on Friday after as many as 225 inmates were involved in fights on Thursday night at the medium-security prison.

Warden Nancy L. Rouse said Friday that 16 inmates were injured in the fighting, including one inmate who was taken to Washington County Hospital with stab wounds.

The inmate had severe stab wounds, according to Maj. Priscilla Doggett, a Maryland Division of Correction spokeswoman. Rouse said the inmate was alive, as far as she knew.

No staff members were injured, she said.

Fifteen other inmates were injured during the fighting, which Rouse described as "simultaneous fights." The injuries of those inmates mostly were bruises and puncture wounds, she said.

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Rouse said the fights appear to have been gang-related. They were "definitely between two groups," she said.

She did not consider Thursday's violence to be a riot. She said that her definition of a riot is a situation in which an institution is damaged, hostages are taken or staff members are injured.

Emergency officials responded to a call on Thursday at 8:18 p.m. for a report of a fight at MCI, which houses about 2,100 inmates.

An emergency services dispatcher said ambulances from Boonsboro, Halfway and Community Rescue Service, as well as personnel from the Washington County Department of Emergency Services, responded to the prison.

Maryland State Police from the Hagerstown barracks provided troopers for traffic control, barracks Commander Lt. R.L. Narron said.

Roxbury Road was closed at both ends while the investigation was going on. Roxbury Road at Sharpsburg Pike was reopened on Friday about 1 a.m.

Correctional officers in a unit trained to deal with emergencies, such as riots, sprayed tear gas into a recreational area at MCI, where hundreds of inmates participated in the two separate fights late Thursday.

Tactical team members from the nearby Roxbury Correctional Institution and Maryland Correctional Training Center responded to the fights, Rouse said.

The reason for the fights, which involved between 200 and 225 inmates, had not been determined.

"They were beating each other with some bats," Doggett said.

Doggett said the prison, which had lifted a lockdown Thursday after two serious fights last Saturday, was on lockdown again. Inmates will not be able to receive visitors this weekend, Rouse said.

Doggett said correctional officers noticed between 10 and 15 inmates in the prison's small courtyard fighting on Thursday about 7:50 p.m. They ordered them to stop, but more inmates joined in, with between 100 and 125 inmates eventually becoming involved in the fighting.

Correctional officers who monitor the yard from outside the fence around it fired tear gas into the crowd.

After the first fight began, Doggett said, about 100 inmates started fighting in the prison's big courtyard. Correctional officers again had to use tear gas to end the fight, she said.

Close to 500 inmates were in the two recreation yards when the fights broke out, Rouse said.

As the inmates left the courtyard, correctional officers checked them for weapons and injuries, Doggett said.

By Friday about 12:45 a.m., Doggett said correctional officers still were trying to clear inmates out of the prison's small courtyard, where the first fight began. She said about 25 remained.

Doggett said officials did not know whether Thursday's fights were related or whether they had anything to do with last Saturday's fights.

Three inmates were treated at Washington County Hospital and later released after two fights last Saturday, when the prison last went on lockdown.

George Gregory, a Division of Correction spokesman, said inmates are restricted to their cells and not permitted to move about the prison for recreation, meals and jobs during lockdowns.

Staff writer Marlo Barnhart contributed to this story.

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