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Baltimore Disturbance Could Have Been Avoided, Former Officer Says

July 26, 1988

BALTIMORE (AP) _ Officials at the overcrowded Maryland Penitentiary isolated 36 inmates Tuesday who had participated in a disturbance that injured 12 people, but they still don’t know why the violence erupted.

Bishop Robinson, the secretary of public safety who is heading the investigation of the riot, said officials identified the inmates who took part and isolated them in the south wing of the downtown, maximum-security prison.

There is no indication that inmates had planned the uprising, Robinson said.

Inmates remained locked in their cells one day after prisoners attacked guards within a recreation yard and a crisis clinic and a minor fire was set in the clinic. No one escaped during Monday’s riot and authorities restored order in about an hour.

Three guards and three inmates remained hospitalized Tuesday, but none was in serious condition. One of the guards and all three inmates had suffered gunshot wounds.

″The only guns found were those used by the officers, but we won’t know for sure (where the wounding shots came from) until ballistics checks are in,″ said Beverly Marable, spokeswoman for the Maryland Division of Correction.

The violence broke out shortly after a group of prisoners had a regular meeting with wardens to discuss grievances, Gov. William Donald Schaefer said.

″(The warden) said he was not able to give them possibly the answers that they wanted,″ Schaefer said.

Prison officials said they did not know what caused the violence, though.

″The investigation isn’t complete enough to be specific as to who the primary instigators were,″ Ms. Marable said.

Officials are interviewing guards and inmates, she said.

The prison, the nation’s second oldest, was built in 1811 and is designed to hold 700 to 800 inmates. It has been chronically overcrowded, though, and held 1,270 on Monday.

Former Maryland Attorney General Stephen H. Sachs described conditions there in 1984 as ″the innermost circle of hell in the Maryland prison system.″ The prison is slated to be torn down in several years, and a new maximum security prison built elsewhere.

Guard Kevin Atkins, 23, was listed in fair condition at Johns Hopkins Hospital with two fractured elbows, a broken hand, head and eye injuries and lacerations, hospital officials said.

At Mercy Medical Center, guard Antoine Givens, 29, was in fair condition with a gunshot wound to the neck, and guard Russell Biddle, 50, was in satisfactory condition with stab wounds and head injuries.

Inmate Anthony Hughly, 22, was listed in fair condition at Johns Hopkins with gunshot wounds in the head and neck, and inmate Wymann Ushry, 25, was in fair condition with a gunshot wound in the head.

Another unidentified inmate remained in the prison hospital with a gunshot wound in the foot. Officials did not release his condition.

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