- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 29, 2006

BALTIMORE — With gang violence increasing and prison safety harder to maintain, Maryland corrections officials are searching for better ways to manage incarcerated gang members, including confining members of the same gang in a separate prison unit.

John A. Rowley, acting commissioner of the state’s Division of Correction, recently sent corrections officials to Connecticut, which has a nationally recognized program for managing gangs in prison.

Mr. Rowley has scheduled a meeting this week to discuss the program, but said the agency has yet to commit to a plan.

Mr. Rowley said he sent the officials because Connecticut’s corrections department created a gang-management program in 1994, after realizing just how dangerous and difficult gang members had become inside the state’s prisons.

In Maryland, officials have implemented a new measure to reduce prison gang violence at the medium-security Maryland Correctional Training Center, near Hagerstown. The facility started confining inmates together “a few months ago,” after they were identified as members of the same gang, Mr. Rowley said.

“What they’re attempting to do is to simply, to the best of their ability, house them together to see if that improves or reduces the violence,” he said.

Officials are only trying out the policy, Mr. Rowley said, and there is no plan yet to incorporate it statewide.

Maryland does not send all incarcerated members of a particular gang to the same prison, a technique that has been tried in other states.

Mr. Rowley said he also wants to increase training for corrections officers so they can recognize gang activity.

Maryland’s correctional institutions have been using intelligence officers in roughly the past 18 months to track gang activity in prisons. Mr. Rowley said the practice has been effective and that he wants to add more staff.

The changes come as Maryland prisons experienced increased violence, including the deaths this year of two corrections officers who were killed by inmates.

A hit list that surfaced in 2004 was addressed to members of the Bloods gang inside the Eastern Correctional Institution. It offered inmates tens of thousands of dollars for killing a former warden and nine corrections officers.

Officer David McGuinn apparently was killed by two inmates inside the Maryland House of Correction in July. Mr. Rowley declined to comment on whether Officer McGuinn was on a hit list.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican running for re-election, said in August one theory is that the slaying was connected to gang violence.

The rate of assaults on corrections officers in the state’s maximum-security prisons nearly doubled from about 3.4 per 100 inmates in 2004 to 6.6 in 2005, according to the state’s nonpartisan Department of Legislative Services.

Maj. Priscilla Doggett, a Maryland Division of Correction spokeswoman, said it’s unclear how many bona fide gang members are incarcerated in Maryland prisons.

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