Maryland Hospitals and Prisons Review Inmate Policy

HAGERSTOWN, Md. – Days after an inmate overpowered three police officers and seized two weapons at a Maryland hospital in a plan to escape, the state’s prison system is reevaluating its policy of using armed guards to patrol hospitalized convicts.

Rick Binetti, spokesman for the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, said officials plan to discuss the subject with correctional officer union leaders as soon as possible. Many of the officials oppose bringing firearms into community hospitals.

The issue was already touched upon in January 2006, after Jeffery Wroten, a state correctional officer, was allegedly murdered by an inmate at a Hagerstown hospital. The inmate used Wroten’s gun to seize a taxi cab before being captured.

On Jan. 2, Kelvin Poke overpowered three guards and seized two weapons in his escape from Laurel Regional Hospital, which concluded in his death.

Jeff Aldridge of Security Assessments International recommended that if two guards are used to watch a prisoner in the hospital, the one who interacts with the convict should not carry a weapon. The armed officer should stand at a safe distance.

Corrections consultant Steven Martin believes that firearms should only be used on maximum-security prisoners. For others, the use of Tasers, batons and pepper spray should be adequate.

For its part, through the healthcare group Dimensions Healthcare System, Laurel Regional Hospital told the state of Maryland that except during emergencies, it will no longer admit inmates as patients until new policies are put into place. The healthcare group oversees the hospital.

In a written statement to Gary D. Maynard, Maryland’s secretary of Public Safety and Correctional Services, and Maryland State Police Col. Terrence Sheridan, the president and CEO of Dimensions, G.T. Dunlop Ecker said the recent events were “unacceptable.” Both stated the hospital needed assurance that all employees will be safe when working with prisoners.

The Poke incident was the second inmate attack at Laurel Regional Hospital since November. Representatives of the Maryland Hospital Association said they will begin reviewing policies for inmate care. They will also mediate discussions between the state and Dimensions.

To review the International Association for Healthcare Safety and Security (IAHSS) Forensic Patient Security Guidelines, please visit, www.iahss.org/pdf/Guidelines/0203.pdf

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