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Four MCI-H officers suspended in escape

January 27, 2009|By ERIN JULIUS

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- Four Maryland Correctional Institution-Hagerstown correctional officers have been suspended without pay for negligence in connection with the Jan. 17 escape of a convicted murderer, prison officials announced Tuesday.

The suspension began early last week. Prison officials would not release the names of the suspended officers.

Each of the four officers, three males and one female, were cited for negligence in the performance of duties. They were suspended for five to 15 days.

Kandelario Garcia-Ramos scaled two fences between 5:30 and 6:30 a.m. the day of his escape. He was captured five days later when a clerk at Sheetz at U.S. 40 and Md. 66, east of Hagerstown, called 911 to report a suspicious man loitering in the store.

Evidence of Garcia Ramos' escape was discovered Jan. 17 at about 8:15 a.m., prison officials said in a news release.

The evidence was clothing on one of the fences the inmate scaled, said Rick Binetti, executive director of communications for the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.

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The escape was initially missed by two routine inmate counts. Inmates are counted before and after each mass movement in the institution, such as mealtimes and at staff shift changes, Binetti said Tuesday afternoon.

The count after breakfast and another count during a subsequent shift change failed to show that an inmate was missing, Binetti said.

Two of the suspended officers were responsible for counting inmates after the breakfast movement or at the shift change.

The other two suspended officers were staffing two observation towers adjacent to the prison's perimeter fence at the time of the escape.

Among the officers suspended are a probationary employee and a veteran officer with more than 25 years on the job, prison officials said in a news release.

Patrick Moran, director of AFSCME Maryland, the union that represents state correctional officers at the prison, said that, first and foremost, the escape points to why each of the prisons needs to be adequately staffed.

"This incident was unfortunate," Moran said. "We are grateful no one was injured and that no one from the community was harmed."

An AFSCME representative in Hagerstown had been in contact with the suspended officers, Moran said.

"We will be appealing these decisions so we can get a full accounting of the incident," he said.

Due to personnel rules and regulations, prison officials could not release information about whether any of the suspended officers held rank or which shift the suspended officers worked, Binetti said.

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