Security at the Maryland House of Correction in Jessup is so fragmented and ineffective that inmates have access without supervision to dangerous tools that could be used as weapons, according to a study released yesterday.
J. J. Clark, a Florida consultant contracted by the state to evaluate security and supervision at the medium security prison following last month's mass escape of 30 inmates, found major security functions at the prison such as key, tool and armory control "poor to nonexistent."
"The task of correcting management deficiencies," Clark wrote, "will take much work and some time."
Clark's findings bolstered critics' charges that lax security procedures led to the mass escape in which inmates fled to surrounding woods after sawing through a barred window.
Four inmates remain at large from that escape.
Clark reported that:
The chain of command at the prison which lacks a security chief, is diffused and ineffective. Three shift commanders share security operations. No one person, Clark argued, is responsible for guard management and deployment.
The prison lacks written policies on tool and key control. "We found hazardous tools unsupervised when inmates were in the different shops," Clark wrote. In the tool and key shops, he said he "could not find one single, signed inventory."
There are no inventories of firearms in the guard towers and ammunition is not being inventoried at the end of each shift. The prison also lacks detailed written regulations to follow in the event of emergencies or escapes.
Maryland officials yesterday termed Clark's report "serious and disturbing." Edwin R. Goodlander, the state commissioner of corrections who fired five wardens last month -- including Jessup's -- because of what he called "inadequate leadership," agreed with Clark's finding that "management accountability is sorely lacking."
"From now on, security procedures will be regularly audited from headquarters," he said, "meaning me."
He said Jessup's new warden, Paul J. Davis, has begun to "tighten up on the weaknesses" by establishing guidelines on inventory and supervision practices.
At the time of last month's escape, there were 267 guards to supervise the prison's 1,294 inmates. According to state guidelines, a minimum of 294 guards are required for adequate security.
Goodlander yesterday said at least 325 guards are needed at Jessup to ensure security.
"One of our greatest concerns is that (the House of Correction) lacks clear accountability," he said. "I have no doubt that 294 (guards) is inadequate. The report gives us the opportunity to head in a corrective direction."