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Locked down after more than 225 inmates involved in fights

UPDATE - MCI

June 15, 2007|By KAREN HANNA and ERIN JULIUS

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

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

No staff members were injured, she said. 

Rouse said this morning the inmate who was stabbed was alive, as far as she knew.

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.

Rouse 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 is injured.

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Emergency officials responded to a call at 8:18 p.m. Thursday 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. The original call went to emergency services at 8:18 p.m.

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

Corrections 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 the Maryland Correctional Training Center responded to the fights, Rouse said.

The inmate taken to Washington County Hospital had severe stab wounds, according to Maj. Priscilla Doggett, a Maryland Division of Correction spokeswoman.

The reasons for the fights, which involved between 200 and 225 inmates, had not been determined, and officials early today still were investigating what weapons might have been used, Doggett said.

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

A Washington County Emergency Service dispatcher said ambulances from Boonsboro, Halfway and Community Rescue Service responded after receiving a call at 8:18 p.m. Maryland State Police from the Hagerstown barracks provided troopers for traffic control, barracks Commander Lt. R.L. Narron said this morning.

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

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

The corrections 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 court yard. Corrections 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, corrections officers checked them for weapons and injuries, Doggett said.

By about 12:45 a.m. today, Doggett said corrections officers still were trying to clear inmates out of the prison's small court yard, 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 Saturday's fights.

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

George Gregory, spokesman for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, said inmates are restricted to their cells and are not permitted to move about the prison for activities, such as recreation, meals and jobs, during lockdowns.

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