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Union criticizes state over prison security threats

ANNAPOLIS — A union for Maryland correctional officers criticized state prison managers on Tuesday for failing to warn an officer who was stabbed only four days after officials were informed he was a target.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees released a letter from an inmate at the prison that was sent as a warning to remove two officers from working on a specific tier of the North Branch Correctional Institution near Cumberland, or they would face violence.

“The fact that intelligence officers were in possession of intelligence and failed to act is unacceptable and someone must be held accountable,” said Patrick Moran, president of AFSCME Maryland. “Officers at NBCI are losing confidence in management’s ability to act to improve safety.”

The union called for three officials to resign for repeated failure to address serious lapses in security that has led to a spike in gang-related assaults of correctional officers at the facility. The union says 15 officers have been assaulted in four separate attacks since July 7.

The Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services said in a statement that a preliminary investigation has revealed that a threat against the injured officer was made and that the employee may not have been notified as required by the policy.

“Appropriate disciplinary action will be taken if staff are found to have violated the notification policy,” the department said.

The department declined to disclose any further information until an investigation has concluded.

The state agency that oversees Maryland correctional facilities has been under scrutiny in recent months in the aftermath of a federal indictment of 25 people in a contraband conspiracy case at the state-run Baltimore City Detention Center, including 13 correctional officers. The indictment exposed embarrassing security lapses and an atmosphere that enabled inmates to skirt around regulations. One gang member, Tavon White, held unusual sway inside the detention center. White pleaded guilty on Tuesday to a racketeering conspiracy for running operations of the Black Guerilla Family gang inside several correctional facilities.

A legislative panel has been studying ways to improve security.