- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 5, 2008

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The hospital from which a state prison inmate made a violent escape is refusing to care for prisoners until security can be improved, a hospital official said yesterday.

The hospital’s corporate parent, Dimensions Health, sent letters to state police and corrections officials notifying them of the decision, said Doug Shepherd, president of Laurel Regional Hospital.

“Until such time as we have a summit to determine how they’re going to resolve their issues, we will no longer accept prisoners,” Mr. Shepherd said.

Dimension Health’s other hospital, the Prince George’s Hospital Center in Cheverly, also will not accept inmates, the hospital official said.

Hospitals are required by law to take emergency cases, but the Dimension hospitals will not accept transfers from the prison system. That would include inmates such as Kelvin Poke, the inmate involved in Wednesday’s escape, who was transferred to the hospital after receiving care at a prison facility, Mr. Shepherd said.

Poke overpowered a guard, stole his gun and used it in an escape from Laurel Regional Hospital that ended in his death.

The hospital president said hospital officials are trying to arrange a meeting in the next few weeks with state corrections officials.

“We’re eager to work with them. They know what the issues are and hopefully will come up with some new procedures to resolve those issues,” Mr. Shepherd said.

Maryland State Police spokesman Gregory Shipley said State Police Superintendent Col. Terrence B. Sheridan and Public Safety Secretary Gary D. Maynard will work with the Maryland Sheriff’s Association and the Maryland Chiefs of Police Association to develop statewide security standards for prisoners needing medical care.

“We understand the concern of the hospital in Laurel, and efforts are already under way to address this on a systemwide basis,” Mr. Shipley said.

He said, though, that state troopers will continue carrying firearms when guarding prisoners at hospitals.

“That is what we do,” Mr. Shipley said. “We carry a weapon.”

Mr. Shipley said most such trips are to emergency rooms, since state police rarely have custody of subjects for more than the few hours it takes to arrest them, tend to any urgent medical needs and bring them to a city or county booking or detention center.

State police “will continue to use the closest available hospital” for those trips, Mr. Shipley said.

Maryland Hospital Association spokeswoman Nancy Fiedler said the association is also reviewing policies for caring for inmates. Maryland’s state prison agency, meanwhile, said it will review its policy of assigning armed guards to hospitalized inmates.

Wednesday’s escape marked the third time in two years that a prisoner seized an officer’s gun and escaped. In November, a suspected car thief — not a state prison inmate — being treated at the Laurel hospital seized a state trooper’s gun and fired shots. He was captured hours later following an intense search.

Poke led police on a seven-hour chase into the District and back into Maryland, where he was killed after firing on Prince George’s County officers who had cornered him in stolen truck in a cemetery. Along the way he carjacked two drivers, injuring one.

While he was in the District, Poke picked up a woman who had once been arrested for prostitution, according to Cmdr. David Kamperin of the Metropolitan Police Department. The woman told investigators that they drove around looking for alcohol and drugs.

The woman was found naked and unharmed in the truck when Poke was killed. Police said she did not know Poke before Wednesday’s incident.

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