Hospital management firm to limit inmate patients

Parent firm of facilities in Md. reacts to two violent escapes

Some hospitals impose such policies themselves. Howard County General Hospital requires that a minimum of one guarding officer be at arm's length of an inmate at all times. Only one prisoner is allowed per floor, and no more than three are allowed in the building at a given time. They must remain shackled by their hands and feet, cannot use phones or receive visitors and are prevented from using certain utensils.

Greater Baltimore Medical Center spokesman Michael Schwartzberg said the Towson-area hospital is not considering a moratorium on inmate visits.

"The safety and security of patients and staff are a hallmark for any hospital," Schwartzberg said. "But I think while what happened at Laurel Regional was unfortunate and tragic, it was likely an anomaly. Hospitals remain very safe."

Only the University of Maryland Medical Center has a secure wing staffed by corrections officers, and prisoners taken there come mostly from Baltimore-area detention centers.

Some union leaders say the state should look into creating a state corrections hospital or regional centers to ensure inmates are treated in secure facilities, and that corrections officers should not be disarmed as long as inmates continue to be taken to community hospitals.

Nancy Fiedler, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Hospital Association, said the group is reviewing policies for inmate care and will monitor discussions between Dimensions and the state.

"We want to find out if there are lessons to be learned or things that need to take place on a statewide basis," Fiedler said. "I expect that we are going to weigh in as well, especially if there's some indication that this wasn't an isolated issue."