JESSUP – The state is beefing up security at the troubled Maryland Correctional Institution in Jessup with a $5 million package that will increase staff and help pay for surveillance cameras and additional equipment for correctional officers.
The funds will be divided among several Division of Correction facilities in Maryland, in addition to the maximum-security Jessup facility that has been plagued by violence in recent months.
In late July, a correctional officer was killed while on duty and three inmates have been killed in separate incidents since May.
The newly-appointed Commissioner of Correction, John A. Rowley, made a request for the funds after a month-long assessment of the existing security measures.
The approved multi-million dollar package was introduced at a press conference on Friday as a group of uniformed correctional officers from the Jessup facility looked on.
“It makes me feel good that this institution got everything we asked for,” Rowley said.
“We are absolutely tickled pink about this plan,” says Ron Bailey, executive director for AFSCME Council 92 – the union that represents Maryland’s correctional officers. But Bailey criticized what he characterized as the administration’s slow response and dismissed the unveiling of the security package at the Jessup prison as a “photo op.”
The plan sets aside $2.1 million to purchase supplies and equipment for correctional officers like radios and batteries, hand scanners and walk-through scanners, X-ray conveyers, stab-proof vests and protective masks.
This amount is in addition to the $1.4 million spent on security equipment in fiscal 2006.
Another $2.1 million will be used to add surveillance cameras to the Maryland House of Correction, Patuxent Institution and Baltimore Central Booking and Intake Center.
The Maryland Correctional Institution, where guard David McGuinn was killed, previously had no surveillance cameras.
McGuinn was killed by prisoners who had broken out of their cells during a nightly prisoner count on July 25.
Two prisoners have been charged with McGuinn’s death and may get the death penalty.
The Maryland Correctional Institution was understaffed during McGuinn’s killing, with 47 vacancies, according to the then-Commissioner of Correction Frank C. Sizer Jr.
Currently, 340 correctional officer vacancies exist, according to Rowley, who says he is working to fill them as soon as possible.
Rowley, a former warden, started as the new commissioner on August 25, a month after McGuinn’s death. He said he is going to be actively involved with correctional personnel, and plans to drop in on midnight shifts and roll calls.
“It is all about these people,” Rowley said, of the correctional officers.
While AFSCME director Bailey was very positive about the increased prison security funding, he criticized the amount of time it took for actions to be taken by the administration, saying they were “a day late and a dollar short.”
” . . .my response to the administration is that it is very unfortunate that they would have to wait until two correctional officers have died,” Bailey said.
Another guard was killed earlier this year. Before that death, a guard had not been killed in a Maryland prison since 1984.
Bailey said that he felt that the union’s pleas for equipment and action had been ignored. He also cautioned that merely buying new equipment wasn’t going to be a cure-all.
Rowley acknowledged that increased security was going to take more than merely throwing money at the problem. “It’s not all about equipment,” Rowley said. “It’s about procedural changes [as well]. The equipment is as good as the staff using it.