- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 13, 2005

HAGERSTOWN, Md. — The recent slayings of two state inmates have raised questions about security within the Division of Correction even as the Ehrlich administration implements programs aimed at reducing violence behind bars.

Philip E. Parker Jr., 20, was killed Feb. 2 aboard a bus full of inmates. His fellow passengers included Kevin G. Johns Jr., who had just been sentenced for killing his 16-year-old cellmate. No one has been charged in Parker’s slaying, which is being investigated.

The victims’ survivors and their attorneys want to know why Johns, originally sentenced to 35 years for choking and hacking his uncle to death, was placed in such close quarters with inmates convicted of lesser crimes.

Parker was serving 3 years for unarmed robbery and a weapons violation. Armad Cloude, 16, was serving 12 years for second-degree murder when Johns strangled him in their cell on Jan. 23, 2004.

“Why would they would put him with a 16-year-old boy? For that matter, why would they put him with anybody?” asked Baltimore lawyer Alexander R. Martick, who represents Cloude’s family and is preparing a wrongful death claim.

The question is partly answered by the Division of Correction’s classification system.

Spokeswoman Priscilla Doggett said in an e-mail that inmates sentenced for violent offenses to terms of more than 10 years, such as Johns and Cloude, are classified as medium-security. Both also were “youthful offenders” — Johns, now 22, was 19 when he killed his uncle — so they were assigned to the Maryland Correctional Training Center (MCTC), a medium-security institution near Hagerstown that houses youthful offenders, she said.

Miss Doggett didn’t respond to questions about why Johns wasn’t isolated at MCTC or during transport.

Cloude, who was charged as an adult at age 14, was sentenced in October 2002 after pleading guilty in Baltimore Circuit Court.

He was sent to MCTC although the judge had recommended the Patuxent Institution, a state facility separate from the Division of Correction that treats violent youthful offenders who have an intellectual impairment or an emotional imbalance. Patuxent also has programs for emotionally or intellectually impaired adult inmates and for those with acute mental illness.

Cloude’s mother, Lily Morton, said she didn’t know why her son was at MCTC instead of Patuxent.

Even Cloude’s prosecutor, Baltimore Assistant State’s Attorney Janet Hankin, was distressed to learn after his death that Cloude wasn’t at Patuxent, said Margaret T. Burns, a spokeswoman for the city prosecutor’s office. Prosecutors had concurred with the judge’s recommendation, she said.

“We know these juveniles are eventually going to be coming back to our communities and we want to see them, while they’re incarcerated, have available to them these types of rehabilitative programs,” Miss Burns said.

The Division of Correction decides which inmates are sent to Patuxent for evaluation. Miss Doggett provided a history of Cloude’s incarceration that contained no mention of Patuxent. She didn’t respond when asked why he wasn’t sent there.

Johns also was recommended for Patuxent after pleading guilty in March 2003 to his uncle’s murder in Baltimore. He was first sent to Hagerstown and then transferred to Patuxent in August 2003, but he was sent back to MCTC two months later. Miss Doggett said she couldn’t discuss the reasons for such transfers, citing privacy concerns.

Parker also served time at MCTC after being sentenced in Baltimore County in April 2003 for holding up a sixth-grader with a pellet gun. In prison, he became reacquainted with Johns, whom he had known earlier from a state-run group home for mentally ill adolescents, according to Parker’s testimony Feb. 1 at Johns’ sentencing for Cloude’s murder.

Parker testified that Johns was “paranoid” and would benefit from the intensive psychiatric treatment available at Patuxent. The Division of Correction “can’t give Kevin the treatment that he needs far as mentally,” he said. “They’ll just drug him up and put him away.”

Johns also asked for intensive treatment and solitary confinement. Otherwise, he said, he likely would go off his medication and kill again. “It’s not that I want to go around killing people,” he said. “But if my hand is forced to, yes, I will do it again.”

Washington County Circuit Judge Frederick C. Wright refused to recommend Johns for Patuxent and instead imposed a sentence of life without parole.

“I do not think that he is subject to rehabilitation,” Judge Wright said after expressing concern that Patuxent might eventually release Johns.

Parker was strangled early the next morning on the bus carrying him and Johns back to the maximum-security Maryland Correctional Adjustment Center, also known as Supermax, in Baltimore. Johns had been at Supermax since Cloude’s murder.

Parker was sent there in February 2004 and spent at least some of his time in isolation after “run-ins with guards” at MCTC and Supermax, said Michael A. Mastracci, an attorney for Parker’s parents, Philip E. Parker Sr. and Melissa Rodriguez.

On the bus back to Supermax, all inmates were shackled and handcuffed, consistent with the state’s policy of transporting all inmates as if they were classified at the highest security level, Miss Doggett said.

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