- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 18, 2007

JESSUP, Md. (AP) - Officials have emptied the Maryland House of Correction, a 128-year-old maximum-security prison where one correctional officer and three inmates were killed in the past year.

Public Safety and Correctional Services Secretary Gary D. Maynard said he started working on plans to close the prison hours after a correctional officer was stabbed there March 2.

“The House of Correction was one of the worst in terms of officer safety and efficiency of operation,” he told the Baltimore Sun. “You can’t put enough officers here to make it safe.”

Over the past two weeks, inmates were secretly moved in groups of 15 to 40 in vans and buses during the day, said John A. Rowley, acting commissioner of the state’s Division of Correction. Inmates weren’t told until the morning of their move that they were leaving, and they weren’t told where they were going, officials said.

Moving the last few dozen of the 842 inmates was to be completed over the weekend. Most went to other facilities in Maryland, but 97 of the “most disruptive” went to federal prisons across the country or state facilities in Kentucky and Virginia, officials said.

The other state prisons have enough room to accommodate the influx, Mr. Maynard said. Savings on overtime expenses for officers will cover the cost of moving inmates and reimbursing other states, and expenses will be covered in the department’s current budget, he said.

The maximum-security Jessup Correctional Institution and the medium-security Maryland Correctional Institution-Jessup, which are adjacent to the House of Correction, will remain open.

The prison’s 438 employees will move to other facilities.

Union leaders have long complained about conditions at the prison, where several high-profile violent incidents occurred in the past year.

Last summer, three prisoners were killed, and Officer David McGuinn was stabbed to death; two inmates have been charged in his death. Officer Edouardo F. Edouazin was stabbed while returning an inmate to his cell earlier this month. He survived the attack.

“It’s been a dangerous prison for a long time for both inmates and staff,” said Sue Esty, interim executive director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 92.

The configuration of the House of Correction makes it hard to control inmates, said William W. Sondervan, who ran Maryland’s prisons from 1999 to 2003.

“The architectural design was from 1878,” he said. “It was big, and it was sprawled out. We had maximum-security inmates in dormitories and more than we should have had there.”

Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, said he had been considering closing the prison when Mr. Maynard presented the idea to him two weeks ago.

“As long as I can remember, people have been saying we should close the House of Correction,” Mr. O’Malley said. “I’m very proud it’s our first order of business really in cleaning up our prisons.”

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