Cumberland Times-News

Opinion

October 31, 2013

Prison safety

Leaders discuss body scanners, surveillance

Body scanners, wiretaps and polygraph tests may soon be among the techniques Maryland legislators put into place at state prisons.

A wide-ranging conversation took place Wednesday in Annapolis when the General Assembly’s commission on prison safety discussed possible legislation to combat prison violence and corruption.

Earlier this year, 13 correctional officers at the Baltimore City Detention Center were indicted and accused of being active gang members and bringing dangerous contraband into the prison. At other state prisons, including those in Cresaptown, inmate violence and assaults on correctional officers have been on the upturn in recent months. Legislators want to address the issues that are at the root of the problems.

One of the panel’s members, state Sen. George Edwards (R-Allegany-Garrett-Washington) said his main concern is for the prison employees’ safety. He said unless violence is curbed, the state will find it increasingly difficult to fill prison jobs.

According to Marylandreporter.com, which had a reporter at the meeting, Delegate John Cluster (R-Baltimore County) was among the most vocal contributors. He said his experience as a former policeman gives him a different perspective on the problems. Among his suggestions is the use of full-body scanners at every prison. Other legislators talked about wire tapping prisoner phone calls and requiring job applicants to take polygraph tests to determine their suitability for the job.

It is not possible to know exactly what steps will be taken when the General Assembly convenes in January. What is clear, though, is that the violence and corruption have reached a level that can no longer be tolerated. Wednesday’s conversation reflects the statewide concern about a prison system that needs reform.

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