Guards at the Maryland House of Correction in Jessup used tear gas to drive 120 inmates from a third-floor dormitory early yesterday morning after they defied the warden's orders to come out peacefully and give up a reputed inmate agitator taking shelter there, authorities said. No injuries were reported.
The suspected agitator and a second convict identified as a ringleader in the disturbance were sent to the state penitentiary in Baltimore where they face disciplinary charges.
As of yesterday afternoon the dormitory was being aired out and routines were back to normal at the medium-secutiry prison, which houses about 1,370 convicts, officials said.
The disturbance came two weeks after 15 inmates were injured in a Saturday-night free-for-all at the Brockbridge facility, another state prison located in Jessup.
Maryland's penal system recently has come under heavy criticism over overcrowding, breakouts and alleged corruption in the work-release program. Last month, shortly after 27 prisoners were indicted for crimes allegedly committed while free on work release, the system's top two administrators resigned their posts.
Warden Paul Davis said this weekend's disturbance at the House of Correction began at about 9:45 Saturday night when inmate George Kensler, serving a 46-year sentence for robbery, assault and handgun offenses, ignored a call to report to a guard's office.
Prison authorities had received reports that Kensler was trying to organize a disturbance, possibly a sit-down strike in the Victorian red-brick prison, and "we wanted to let him know that we knew that," Davis said.
On Friday, guards had observed him addressing a group of about 80 inmates in the prison's gym. On Saturday afternoon, he was seen talking to another group of 10 to 20 inmates, according to Davis.
When he ignored the summons Saturday night, a guard went to his third-floor dormitory to find him, Davis continued. About 25 of the 120 inmates there drew around Kensler, who taunted the guard, saying, "I don't go anywhere." The guard withdrew. Warden Davis then assembled a 25-man tactical squad and called the state police, who sent 37 officers and three dogs.
Shortly after midnight, after again calling on the prisoners to come out peacefully, authorities tossed tear-gas grenades into the dormitory, which the inmates had darkened. Some inmates came out without incident almost immediately. They were followed some minutes later by Kensler and then by the remainder.
"There was no physical resistance. There were no injuries either to staff or residents," Davis said.
Kensler and another convict who allegedly helped organize the resistance, Stanley Dukes, serving an 18-month sentence for a parole violation, were moved to the Baltimore penitentiary at about 3 a.m. Both men face punishment under the prison's internal disciplinary system, Davis said. No action was planned against the other men, however.