Maryland Corrections Officers Fired

 HAGERSTOWN, Md. (AP) — Court documents show that a state prison inmate who was beaten by correctional officers in March was injured so badly that he was unrecognizable.

The documents also allege that 42-year-old Kenneth Davis was beaten in four different attacks over a 24-hour period at the Roxbury Correctional Institution.

Several correctional officers were fired, and others have been charged with second-degree assault for their roles in the March 2008 attacks.

The documents also indicate that one of those officers, Lucas Kelley, initially withheld information about the attacks but later testified against his former colleagues.

The documents were filed in connection with a hearing for an officer who’s appealing his firing


Maryland Corrections Officer Arrested

UPPER MARLBORO, Md. (AP) — A Prince George’s County Department of Corrections officer has been arrested.

 Prince George’s County Department of Corrections Cpl. John Hanna of Glen Burnie

Authorities say Cpl. John Hanna of Glen Burnie was arrested Sunday in Prince William County in Virginia and charged with burglary, rape, abduction and other offenses. He is being held without bond in Manassas.

Prince George’s County officials say Hanna had been on administrative leave with pay from the county corrections department since Jan. 15. His leave was due to a jail incident that is still being investigated.

Authorities say Hanna has now been suspended without pay because of the criminal charges.


Driver Who Struck Amish Buggies is a Corrections Officer

HOLLYWOOD, Md. (Nov. 13, 2008) — The driver of a minivan that collided with two bicyclists who in turn hit two Amish horse and buggy rigs last month in Leonardtown is a corrections officer with the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office, Sheriff Timothy K. Cameron confirmed Tuesday.

The officer, Benjamin Allen, 19, is still employed with the agency, Cameron said, while the investigation into the crash is continuing.

“We’re handling it the way we would any investigation,” Cameron said. “He wasn’t driving an agency vehicle, he wasn’t even on the clock.”

The collision occurred Oct. 26 and according to police reports Allen collided with the bicyclists riding behind the two Amish horse and buggy rigs as they were stopped for the light at the intersection of Hollywood Road and Point Lookout Road.

Both buggies were trailing canoes at the time of the accident, police reports stated.

The two cyclists, who were 17-year-old juveniles, male and female, of Leonardtown and Mechanicsville, then struck one of the horse and buggy rigs, police reports stated.

Allen, along with the juvenile cyclists, were taken to St. Mary’s Hospital for treatment. Both he and the female were released but the male was taken to Washington Hospital Center for further care.

The drivers and passengers of the two buggies were unscathed, police said.

Cameron said that the correctional officer’s career could be affected if any charges are brought against him resulting from the investigation.

“We’ll treat this with emphasis and priority,” Cameron said.

The accident was the subject of questions from at least one Leonardtown town council member at the Nov. 10 meeting.

Mayor J. Harry Norris said that when the town deputy Steve Simonds was questioned about the accident, the deputy said he had few details on regarding it.

“It surprised me, too,” Norris said. “I would expect that a deputy assigned to the town would know about such a serious accident.

“He guaranteed me he’d look into it and get back to me.”

Norris said that the Amish often bring canoes into town to take to Tudor Hall Farm to go boating.

“They’ve always used the Macintosh Run for recreation,” Norris said.

Prison Guard Busted On Drug Smuggling Charges

HAGERSTOWN, Md. — Maryland prison officials have accused a 22-year-old correctional officer of trying to smuggle marijuana and tobacco into the Roxbury Correctional Institution near Hagerstown.

The Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services said Krista Blank, of Mount Savage, planned to deliver the contraband to inmates at the medium-security institution.

The agency said it was alerted by other correctional officers and an internal intelligence unit led to the discovery of the contraband inside a staff restroom at the prison.

Blank could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted on all four counts of marijuana and contraband possession and possession with intent to deliver the materials inside a prison.

Blank has no home telephone listing, and her union representatives didn’t immediately return calls from The Associated Press.

Sue Esty, assistant director of the Maryland branch of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the state workers’ union, said any judgment would be premature until Blank has had an opportunity to present evidence in her defense.


Employee caught smuggling drugs into prison

BALTIMORE (Map, News) – An 18-year-old state employee has been charged with trying to smuggle drugs into a Baltimore City prison.

Omeka Best, of the 2900 block of Erdman Avenue in Baltimore, is charged with possession of marijuana, attempted drug distribution and other counts after she was arrested on Aug. 1 at the Metropolitan Transition Center on Forrest Street.

At about 12:30 p.m. that day, a correctional officer assigned to the back gate of the facility frisked Best, who works at the prison’s canteen, and noticed what appeared to be tobacco in Best’s shoes, according to charging documents.

The officer called her supervisor, who ordered Best to undergo an “intense frisk search,” police said.

Best admitted she was smuggling other banned substances into the facility and pulled down her pants to remove bags of marijuana and tobacco from her buttocks, charging documents state. The marijuana seized totaled half a pound.

Best said she was bringing the drugs and tobacco – which is banned from the facility – for an inmate named “Ty” who she had a relationship with prior to working at the center, police said. She would not give police any more information about Ty’s identity, officers said.

Prison spokesman Rick Binetti said the arrest shows that state officials have made stopping contraband a “top priority.”

“It means our stepped-up efforts on busting contraband continue to work,” he said.


A smooth getaway “No cage, no cuffs, no cell phone, no radio and, for prisoner, no problem”

The man who escaped from a state prison van on his way to Baltimore Circuit Court on Tuesday didn’t have a very difficult time of it.

The corrections officer driving the van told a judge yesterday that she didn’t normally transport prisoners to court but had missed a morning drop-off in Jessup with other officers who were supposed to take him to Baltimore.

After a conversation with a supervisor, Officer Deborah Barron said, she believed she had orders to bring him downtown herself.

She took a regular van that lacked cages and any other security features. She didn’t have handcuffs, either.
But she put Marcus Anderson – a 6-foot, 3-inch, 220-pound convicted drug dealer who was facing gun charges – next to her in the front passenger seat anyway.

When she stopped at a red light at Baltimore and South streets, Anderson opened the door, “leaped out” and ran away in a light blue, V-neck Division of Corrections shirt, Barron said.

She couldn’t call for help – she had no cell phone or radio. The light changed, and impatient commuters started honking at her, so she drove on to the courthouse alone, she said.

Anderson hasn’t been caught, but yesterday Judge Charles G. Bernstein allowed his trial on charges of illegally possessing a firearm to move forward anyway.

After listening to the details of the less-than-thrilling escape, the judge asked a corrections lieutenant investigating the incident whether Barron had given Anderson “bus tokens, too?”

As the lieutenant, Arturo Perez, testified, Bernstein, who is known for his bluntness, frequently shook his head in disbelief and buried his head in his hands.

“If I were a young enterprising criminal, I’d come to Baltimore to set up my practice,” he said with evident sarcasm. “This is the place to be. This is the Promised Land.”

He called the circumstances of the escape “outrageous.”

“Maybe I’ll get reversed” by a higher court, Bernstein said of his decision to move forward with Anderson’s trial. “Defendants just can’t think, ‘I don’t want to go to trial today. I’m going to escape.’ I’m not going to give him a continuance given his actions.”

Margaret Burns, a spokeswoman for prosecutors, said that it was important to push for a trial because Anderson’s co-defendant in the gun case has “speedy trial rights” and the office is “vigorously” prosecuting gun cases as part of an initiative with the Baltimore Police Department.

Rick Binetti, a spokesman for the state Corrections Department, said that many procedures were not followed, leading up to the morning escape, and that the department was investigating.

As of yesterday, Barron was under internal investigation but had not faced any disciplinary action.

Binetti said that the department transports about 5,500 criminals to court each month and that such lapses are rare.

Barron testified yesterday that she picked up Anderson, 22, in the lobby of the department’s Pre-Release Unit in Jessup and took him to a “road crew” van – a standard, unmodified passenger van.

At about 9 a.m., she drove him a half-block to the adjacent Brockbridge Correctional Facility, where a transport unit should have been waiting to take him to court, she said.

When she got there, Barron said, she was told that the transport van had already left.

She reported the problem to a supervisor, who replied, “Oh Lord. OK,” and hung up, Barron said.

Supervisors didn’t tell Barron to bring Anderson to court “in so many words, but they didn’t tell me to bring him back,” she said, later adding, “I assumed they wanted me to take him on downtown.”

Perez said Barron had “left the cell phone she was supposed to carry.”

But Barron said the department had not issued her one that day. The van she was driving, which is normally used to transport inmates working on road crews, did not have a radio, she said.

Barron, a 19-year veteran of the Corrections Department, testified that after Anderson fled, “there was nothing for me to do but proceed. I had a green light. Vehicles were blowing their horns. I reported to the garage [at the courthouse] … and notified the sheriff, the Jessup Pre-Release Unit and 911.”

Anderson, of the 800 block of Herndon Court in South Baltimore, was serving a three-year sentence for violating his probation in a drug-dealing case. A separate drug conviction sparked the probation violation.

Anyone with information about his escape is asked to call 911.

Prison Chief Tells Lawmakers That 23 Maryland Corrections Officers Fired After Beating Inmates Won’t Be Rehired

HAGERSTOWN, MARYLAND – Maryland’s prison chief has refused two state lawmakers’ request that he reinstate 23 correctional officers fired in a brutality probe, telling the legislators that the grounds for dismissal were “very compelling.”

Sen. George C. Edwards, R-Garrett/Allegany/Washington, and Del. Kevin Kelly, D-Allegany, had urged Public Safety and Correctional Services Secretary Gary D. Maynard last week to reinstate the unidentified officers until a criminal investigation into allegations that they used excessive force against inmates is complete.

Maynard wrote in a letter Wednesday that the 15 officers from the medium-security Roxbury Correctional Institution near Hagerstown and eight from the maximum-security North Branch Correctional Institution near Cumberland had received due process under a law requiring state agencies to take any disciplinary action within 30 days after learning of alleged misconduct.

“I am confident that the very compelling evidence the department gathered administratively in the 30-day period far exceeded what was necessary to support the administrative action taken with regard to these individuals,” Maynard wrote.

During the administrative investigation, the officers were on paid leave.

Kelly raised the issue on behalf of himself and Edwards in an April 17 letter after meeting with correctional officers and labor union representatives who contend Maynard rushed to judgment. Their position was strengthened when the agency reinstated two other Roxbury officers several days after firing them, explaining that new evidence had exonerated them.

Kelly maintained on Thursday that none of the officers should have been fired and instead should have been either placed on paid leave or reassigned to jobs not requiring inmate contact pending the outcome of all administrative and criminal probes.

“Fundamentally, I just feel that a person should not be denied salary and benefits while they’re being investigated, because there’s a presumption of innocence,” Kelly said.

He said he would urge the General Assembly to review the 30-day requirement next session. He also said he would pursue a “correctional officers bill of rights,” similar to an existing law that protects state troopers, police officers and sheriff’s deputies from losing their jobs in similar circumstances.

The firings earlier this month stemmed from allegations that North Branch officers brutalized as many as seven inmates who had been transferred from Roxbury after fighting with Roxbury guards March 6, and that Roxbury officers used excessive force against a Roxbury inmate on the weekend of March 8.