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2 fired correctional officers reinstated at RCI

April 12, 2008|By ERIN JULIUS

HAGERSTOWN -- Two Roxbury Correctional Institution officers who were among 25 fired by the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services amid allegations of excessive force were reinstated earlier this week, a union spokesman said Friday.

"They were fired while the investigation was still under way and it was found they were fired because of false information," said Joe Lawrence, spokesman for the American Federation of State, Municipal and County Employees.

AFSMCE's understanding was that the officers were cleared, including in a criminal investigation led by Maryland State Police, Lawrence said. One of the officers was reinstated Tuesday, and the other Wednesday, he said.

The reinstatement reduces to 23 the number of officers fired in the last week from RCI, a medium-security prison south of Hagerstown, and North Branch Correctional Institution near Cumberland, Md.

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On Thursday, eight officers at the maximum-security NBCI were fired. Those firings followed the April 4 firing of nine RCI correctional officers and Tuesday's firing of an additional eight RCI officers.

"These reinstatements have exposed these mass firings to be a rush to judgment on the state's part, as AFSCME has maintained all along," a union spokesman said in a news release.

Mark Vernarelli, a spokesman for the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, said Friday in an e-mail, "The State personnel and pension rules under the Code of Maryland require that disciplinary action be taken within 30 days of an agency acquiring knowledge of alleged misconduct.

"After the 30-day period in this case, as the investigation by Maryland State Police and the DPSCS Internal Investigative Unit continued, information came out exonerating these two officers," Vernarelli said. "The Department took immediate action to bring the officers back, and they have been reinstated with no loss of State service time."

At least two injured inmates were involved in separate incidents that led to the allegations, Vernarelli said Thursday night.

One RCI inmate was found injured during the weekend of March 8 and was hospitalized. Prison officials have said that incident might have been connected to a March 6 assault by inmates on officers.

Subsequently, at least one inmate at NBCI who had been housed at RCI alleged he was a victim of excessive force, Vernarelli said Thursday.

Vernarelli said Friday in the e-mail that the investigation continues, regardless of the 30-day window for discipline, and a criminal probe by state police and the Internal Investigative Unit of DPSCS remains active.




First

Over the course of a week, the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services had fired 25 correctional officers at two prisons, Roxbury Correctional Institution and North Branch Correctional Institution.

Why

The disciplinary actions were related to an investigation into allegations of use of excessive force against inmates.

Now

Two of the fired RCI officers have gotten their jobs back.

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