- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 24, 2005

BALTIMORE — State prison inmates are no longer allowed to write letters to each other, a policy change that was made months after officials discovered a letter offering thousands of dollars in bounties for killing a former warden and nine correctional officers, a corrections spokeswoman said yesterday.

The author of the letter pledges 25 percent of the bounty for stabbing someone on the list and 10 percent “if you knock their head off.”

A union representative for the officers said the letter has correctional officers concerned about their safety. He contends that more staff support is needed in a system where officers are outnumbered by inmates 48-to-1.

An Eastern Correctional Institution (ECI) officer on the list already has been attacked inside the facility, but corrections officials haven’t verified whether the beating and the letter are linked, said Priscilla Doggett, spokeswoman for the Maryland Division of Correction.

However, Carl McVeigh of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Council 92, said he can’t believe that there isn’t a connection.

“To me, any reasonable and prudent person who sees his name on a hit list with a dollar amount next to it that apparently has been around since the fall — to me, any reasonable and prudent person would say, ‘Uh oh. He’s on the list. It happened to him,’” Mr. McVeigh said.

Robert Kupec, a former warden at the facility, received the letter last year before he resigned, Miss Doggett said. It was addressed to members of the Bloods gang inside the ECI. It contained a list of 10 names, including the warden’s, with different amounts of money next to them, ranging between $5,000 and $30,000.

Mr. Kupec referred the letter to an internal investigative unit, but Commissioner Frank C. Sizer Jr. didn’t become aware of the letter until after October, Miss Doggett said.

Before finding out about the letter, corrections officials already were taking measures to improve intelligence gathering, Miss Doggett said, and the list “increased our belief” that more needed to be done.

“We were already headed there, but then when this came along, it substantiated the need to do the things that we’re trying to do,” Miss Doggett said.

Miss Doggett said other policy changes have been made, but she wasn’t able to discuss matters relating to intelligence. She also said more attention is being focused on dangerous groups in the state’s prisons.

“We have identified several security threat groups within our system, and we’re looking at that,” she said.

The policy change forbidding inmates to write to each other went into effect in February. The only exceptions will be for inmates who have relatives in prison, and they will need to get approval before they can correspond.

Earlier this month, the facility was on lockdown for the second time in two weeks, after a facilitywide security sweep uncovered a homemade weapon.

There are about 3,150 inmates at ECI in Westover. The prison is the largest employer in Somerset County.

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