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Four MCI correctional officers receive disciplinary action after two disturbances in one night

February 24, 2012|By DAN DEARTH | dan.dearth@herald-mail.com
  • One of the guard towers at MCI.
By Yvette May/Staff Photographer

Two disturbances in one night at the Maryland Correctional Institution south of Hagerstown led to disciplinary action against four correctional officers and the transfer of some inmates, according to the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.

The disturbances occurred Saturday, Feb. 18, with the first “a minor assault on (an) officer” in a segregation unit, Rick Binetti, a spokesman for the department, said Friday.

Binetti, in the statement and emailed responses to questions, said the second disturbance “began when a large group of inmates in a locked recreation hall became disruptive and refused to comply with officers’ orders.”

Some inmates “did throw liquids and/or other items,” he said.

Officers who responded to the recreation hall — a common area on a tier — used several types of “nonlethal weaponry” to quell the disturbance, he said.

A source who asked not to be named said correctional officers broke out windows and used tear gas and rubber bullets.

Binetti would not describe what officers used to subdue the inmates, but said “staff did break windows.”

He said no staff members were seriously injured.

“Some inmates did receive basic medical care related to exposure to pepper spray,” Binetti said. “It is routine to offer medical assistance after exposure to such spray.”

Two officers were reprimanded and two others were placed on administrative leave after an investigation determined they failed to follow proper policy and procedures, Binetti said.

The names and ranks of the officers who were being disciplined were not released.

“The Department’s preliminary investigation determined that the use of force chosen by the officers was inappropriate and excessive under the circumstances and against policy,” Binetti said in the statement.

“Furthermore, information suggests the incident could have been avoided had proper policy and procedures been followed. This placed both officers and inmates in a potentially dangerous situation,” according to the statement.

The disturbance was contained to the recreation area, Binetti said.

“The prison was not at any time out of custody staff control, and the public was never in any danger,” he said.

The prison was “immediately and completely” locked down. It was operating normally by Tuesday, Binetti said.

Some inmates were transferred out of MCI-H and others were placed in administrative segregation units at the prison, Binetti said. He would not disclose the number.

State Sen. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, said that he received several calls on Friday from correctional officers who claimed the rights of the officers being disciplined were violated. Shank said the officers who called him were not on duty at the time of the disturbances.

“They were concerned,” said Shank, noting he wouldn’t second-guess the way correctional officers respond to emergencies. “I just hope (investigators) follow the spirit of the correctional officers’ Bill of Rights,” he said.

He said he called Gary Maynard, secretary of the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, to find out more about the matter. He said he hadn’t heard anything as of late Friday afternoon.

“I don’t know a whole lot about it,” Shank said.

Patrick Moran, director of the Maryland Office of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the labor union that represents correctional officers, was unavailable for comment.

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