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Inmates who committed suicide were serving sentences for sex crimes

December 30, 2009|By BRIDGET DiCOSMO

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- Two inmates serving sentences for sex crimes at the state prison complex south of Hagerstown committed suicide between Saturday and Monday, the first such deaths at the three prisons since 2007, a corrections spokesman said.

The suicides were at different prisons and were unrelated, according to Mark Vernarelli, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.

The first death occurred Saturday about 2:50 p.m. at the Maryland Correctional Training Center and the second on Monday about 2:15 p.m. at the Maryland Correctional Institution, Vernarelli said.

On Saturday, an MCTC correctional officer making rounds in one of the housing units discovered Edward Amos, 42, hanging in his cell, Vernarelli said. Six officers immediately got him down and a nurse began administering CPR. Boonsboro Ambulance and Rescue personnel also responded, but Amos was pronounced dead a short time after they arrived, Vernarelli said.

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Amos, who was serving a 16-year sentence for sex offenses, was admitted to the Maryland Division of Correction in August 1999, Vernarelli said.

At MCI, Anthony McDaniels, 38, had spoken with a correctional officer a few minutes before he was found hanging in his cell, Vernarelli said. He had given the officer no indication that he was in any distress during their conversation, Vernarelli said.

Three correctional officers immediately took him into the hallway and attempted to revive him, he said.

McDaniels had been serving a 19-year sentence for drug and sex offenses, Vernarelli said. He was admitted to the Maryland Division of Correction in November 2001.

Both Amos and McDaniel were housed in single cells, Vernarelli said.

"We do all we can to prevent suicides, from special monitoring of those suspected of being suicidal, to extra vigilance around holiday periods, when we know that some incarcerated men and women certainly have particularly difficult emotional stresses," Vernarelli said in a prepared statement.

Predicting who is a suicide risk, however, sometimes can prove to be impossible when an inmate gives no indication of being in distress, he said.

Suicide can be emotionally traumatic for correctional officers, especially if they have known an inmate for a long time, Vernarelli said.

There have been seven suicides at the prison complex on Roxbury Road since December 2001, according to Division of Correction numbers.

Statewide, there were 63 inmate and detainee suicides in Maryland Division of Correction facilities since December 2001, including 37 at pretrial or intake facilities where inmates are placed when they first enter the system.

"These are the places where people are often emotionally at their nadir," Vernarelli said in an e-mail to The Herald-Mail.

In some cases such as the ones that occurred after Christmas, correctional officers and medical staff will try to resuscitate the prisoner, only to fail.

"This is particularly heartbreaking and traumatic," Vernarelli said.

Correctional officers who are able to save the life of an inmate who has attempted suicide usually are honored in a formal ceremony.

An inmate at North Branch Correctional Institution in Cumberland, Md., recently was revived after a suicide attempt. The four correctional officers who helped save him received commendations, Vernarelli said.

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