As David McGuinn, a relatively new correctional officer at the Maryland House of Correction, was driving to work for his evening shift on July 25, 2006, it’s possible that then-Gov. Robert Ehrlich might have been working on the state budget. Mary Ann Saar, Ehrlich’s secretary of public safety, might have been thinking about her new treatment program for inmates, and Frank Sizer, the commissioner of correction, might have been concerned about the loss of prison custody positions.
Officer McGuinn, with two years of experience, just wanted to get to work, complete his shift safely and go home. That’s the simple objective of most correctional officers.
As he reported for his evening shift at the maximum security prison, McGuinn probably didn’t understand the reason for the 47 correctional officer vacancies at the prison.
But everyone connected to the maximum security prison should have been concerned about the violence that permeated the facility. Two officers were repeatedly stabbed and wounded in March 2006, and three inmates had been killed in recent months at the prison.
The facility was currently under a major lockdown. Violence was a rabid beast that lived at the prison and would prey on both staff and inmates alike.
Ehrlich and Saar had tidy, neat and quiet office suites in the tower, but they seldom walked the dungeon, and they seemed to have little awareness or understanding about the plight of a new correctional officer rubbing shoulders with violent maximum security predators roaming the state’s prisons.
When McGuinn arrived at the prison this day, he probably received a briefing and obtained his security equipment. When he reported to his assigned tier, he might have taken an initial inmate count.
As he began his normal activities — which probably included feeding the inmate population and making security rounds — he might have thought the day would be uneventful and that he would complete his tour of duty and soon be home with his girlfriend and daughter. He might have even made some plans for his days off in the event he didn’t have to work overtime at the prison.
At 10 p.m., the institution appeared quiet.
Alone, he began to walk his housing unit from cell to cell to take a physical count of the inmates who were present. As he walked by each housing area with his count board and flashlight, he probably had no reason to suspect any problems since all of the inmates were locked in their cells.
McGuinn would be sadly mistaken.
Shortly after 10 p.m., two inmates allegedly forced their cell doors open and began to physically assault McGuinn about his torso with homemade weapons. He was bleeding profusely as he tried to protect himself with his hands, according to reports.
McGuinn called on his radio for help, and he was taken to a nearby hospital. At 11:03 p.m., he was pronounced dead.
Although two inmates have been charged in the attack, more than five years have passed since the incident. And there has been no trial.
Both inmates were serving life sentences before the stabbing, and unless they are found guilty and executed under the new death penalty guidelines, they will still be serving life sentences after the prison homicide.
I believe there is little deterrent for this violent behavior in the Maryland Division of Correction, and there has been no justice for McGuinn or his family and friends. The State of Maryland’s example of justice in this case is shameful.
Ehrlich, Saar and Sizer probably don’t spend too many days thinking about McGuinn’s death. For them, time has likely erased most of those memories.
But his family — and the 2,000 mourners who attended McGuinn’s funeral in Atlantic City, N.J., on Aug. 3, 2006 — are still waiting for a little justice.
And so am I.
Lloyd “Pete” Waters is a Sharpsburg resident who writes columns for The Herald-Mail.