Built in 1878 and located in Jessup, MHC had become increasingly dangerous. In just the past year, three prisoners and a guard were murdered inside its cramped and crumbling walls ? where cells are as small as 45 square feet ? while other guards and prisoners have been seriously wounded in multiple stabbings and other assaults. PLN has reported extensively on MHC and other violence-wracked Maryland lockups. [See: PLN, February 2007, p.1; August 2006, p.20; and August 2005, p.1].
Though for years prisoners have been killed at MHC, the murder of prison guard David McGuinn, 42, in July 2006 brought national attention to the aging institution and prompted calls for its closure. McGuinn was allegedly stabbed to death by two prisoners who escaped from their maximum-security cells by jamming the locking mechanisms with tiny bars of soap.
?We?re better than this as people,? said Maryland Governor Martin O?Malley at a ceremony marking the end of MHC. ?Today?s a historic day because our state government ? is facing up to its own responsibility?. For years and years, this facility, which predates Alcatraz, has been functionally obsolete.?
The prisoner transfers were conducted in secret during the first few weeks of March and weren?t announced until after they were complete. The decision to close MHC was lauded by both prisoner rights advocates and union officials representing state prison guards.
O?Malley, who took office in January 2007, said he was relieved that the prison has been shuttered. ?As long as I can remember, people have been saying we should close the House of Correction,? O?Malley stated. ?I?m very proud it?s our first order of business really in cleaning up our prisons.?
Judging by the violence and myriad problems at other Maryland facilities, however, it certainly won?t be the last.
Sources: wjla.com, washingtonpost.com, Baltimore Sun, Associated Press
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