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Md. State Police continues to probe allegations of excessive force at prisons

July 10, 2008|By ERIN JULIUS

HAGERSTOWN -- More than 20 correctional officers at Maryland prisons remain locked in appeals after being fired in April amid allegations of excessive force, Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services Secretary Gary Maynard said Wednesday morning after making a presentation to the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce.

Maryland State Police continued a criminal investigation into the allegations, spokesman Greg Shipley said Wednesday afternoon.

"The investigation continues to be a priority for investigators," Shipley said. Investigators will forward their findings to prosecutors in Washington and Allegany counties when their review is complete, he said.

At the end of April, State Police Sgt. Arthur Betts told the Associated Press that the criminal investigation would be wrapped up by late May.

On Wednesday, Shipley said it was inappropriate to give an estimate on when the investigation would be complete because they are usually wrong.

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Twenty-three officers were fired from Roxbury Correctional Institution, a medium-security prison south of Hagerstown, and North Branch Correctional Institution near Cumberland, Md. An additional two Roxbury officers had been fired but were reinstated.

At least two injured inmates were involved in separate incidents that led to the excessive force allegations that led to the terminations, prisons spokesman Mark Vernarelli has said.

One Roxbury 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 North Branch, who had been at RCI, alleged he was a victim of excessive force, Vernarelli has said.

Ron Smith, a labor relations specialist for the Maryland Classified Employees Association (MCEA) in April said he was representing three of the terminated officers during the appeals process.

The officers would first have their cases heard at the DPSCS level by a hearing officer and then would have the opportunity to appeal their cases to the Office of Administrative Hearings.

Smith was unavailable Wednesday for comment.

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