The Maryland prison commissioner vowed today to take steps to shore up security at the Maryland State Penitentiary here in the aftermath of violence Saturday that left one guard dead and seven guards and inmates injured.
But a top official of one union representing guards immediately branded the promised actions as "pure cosmetics."
After a two-hour meeting in which union officials restated their demands for the warden's ouster, Commissioner Arnold Hopkins held a press conference to express his "confidence" in warden Leslie Dorsey and to outline "added steps toinsure security" at the maximum-security facility.
The security steps announced today would focus on the segregation section, where the killing occurred and where the most troublesome inmates are housed. Under the plan, guards would wear flak jackets to protect against knives and picks and use hand-held devices to detect weapons smuggled back to the unit by inmates. Malfunctioning keys and locks would be quickly repaired or replaced, Hopkins said.
He also said the warden would consider a "rotation plan" so that guards would not spend extended time in the segregation unit in the 1,440-man facility, where 36 percent of the population is incarcerated for murder.
Joseph Adler, executive director of the Maryland Classified Employees Association (MCEA), which represents some prison guards at the penitentiary, said after the press conference that the security steps are "worthless" and "pure cosmetics."
He called for an investigation of the incident by the attorney general's office.
Since the stabbing death Saturday of Herman Toulson, a 39-year-old guard, the MCEA and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), which also represents prison guards, have charged that the facility is understaffed and that the warden failed to heed guards' concern about their safety.
AFSCME official William D. Wharton said that Toulson, who he said spent seven years as a guard in the segregation area, had repeatedly asked for a transfer, saying he feared for his life.
Yesterday, Dorsey said he had never been personally aware of those requests. Hopkins said that Toulson had requested a transfer, was interviewed by the prison's security chief and was moved to a position in which he had less personal contact with the segregation inmates. On Saturday, the day of the fatal stabbing, Toulson had returned to work at his old job as a guard in the section, according to Hopkins.
Meanwhile, Baltimore Police have drawn a warrant charging inmate Nathaniel Appleby, 33, with homicide in Toulson's death and with assault against two other guards, according to police spokesman Dennis Hill.