Jail guards in a Prince George's County courtroom cheered yesterday when Circuit Judge James M. Rea issued his court order reprimanding County Executive Lawrence J. Hogan and ordering the guards to end their participation in the county's seven-day public employes strike.
Several guards sought the judge in the courthouse corridors afterward to shake his hand.
While the guards had defied a court injunction last week ordering them to return to work, virtually all of them said yesterday they were happy to obey Rea's ruling and to resume work at the Upper Marlboro facility -- so happy that officials in the 126-member correctional employes local urged the 50 guards gathering in the jail's parking lot to work the afternoon shift.
"We don't want to say anything that the man up there might construe as negative and use against us," one union official said to reporters gesturing to the county administration building where Hogan has his offices.
Nevertheless, smiling broadly, slapping palms and showing unusual restraint in discussing Hogan, the guards said they had secured, in the words of one corrections officer, "a helluva good beginning." Rea's order placed the county jail under the trusteeship of attorney George Gifford. The jail still will be run day-to-day by county director of corrections Arnett W. Gaston, but Gaston will report to Gifford, who will keep Rea informed about jail operations.
Judge Rea visited the jail yesterday afternoon at the request of union attorneys.
"We just want to let him see what it's like inside here," said union president Steve Tanhauser. "Maybe we can really start professionalizing the jail, which will help everybody -- the guards, the inmates, and the county."
Although jail conditions were not at issue in the strike, corrections employes have long complained that there are too few officers to guard the 570 inmates in the facility.
"We're still not out of the woods yet," said guard Charles Casey."But at least we have a little ray of hope. We still risk our lives whenever we go on the job, but at least we have our jobs."
Larry Ziegler, a burly dark-haired guard, said he had planned to begin work in his brother's shoe store to support his wife and daughter if he lost his job.
"I was getting a little worried when I heard we'd been fired," he admitted.
"Now I'm just glad to be going back in. I was getting tired of doing nothing all day."
Ziegler and fellow guards -- some in uniform, some carrying children and wearing civilian clothes -- cheered as the first 15 guards answered roll call at 3 p.m. and entered the glass doors at the front of the jail.