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Guilty plea suggests inmate beatings were institutionalized at Maryland prison

February 5, 2013

The recently revealed federal prosecution of a long-investigated 2008 inmate beating by correctional officers at Roxbury Correctional Institution (RCI) in Hagerstown (“And the Beating Goes On,” Mobtown Beat, Jan. 30) has yielded a guilty plea: Ryan Lohr, 26, who admitted to participating in a conspiracy to beat inmate Kenneth Davis and obstruct the ensuing investigation (News Hole , Jan. 22). He is scheduled to be sentenced in June.

What Lohr admitted to, though, suggests Davis’ beating was not an isolated incident involving a few bad officers – as Gary Maynard, Maryland’s secretary of the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (DPSCS) has contended in another legal proceeding involving another beaten inmate – but was instead an institutionalized, extra-legal practice in which newly hired correctional officers were schooled by their colleagues.

According to the factual statement in Lohr’s plea, shortly after he was hired as a correctional officer in 2008, he was “advised by RCI officers that if an inmate hit an RCI officer, officers would use force to punish the inmate,” and that in doing so, “they intended to injure the inmate.” Lohr, the document continues, “understood that this practice of using force to punish and injure inmates was unlawful.” Davis had assaulted a correctional officer prior to the beatings he received – four in a 24-hour period – according to court documents.

An ongoing federal civil lawsuit, brought in 2008 by another allegedly beaten inmate, Benjamin Davis (no relation to Kenneth Davis), has involved much legal wrangling over DPSCS’ response to the Kenneth Davis beating. In filings in that case, lawyers for DPSCS have stated that Maynard “has admitted that after the Kenneth Davis beatings, [the department] determined that the event was an isolated matter involving rogue officers and that no additional training or supervision was necessary.”

Asked about the apparent contradiction between what Lohr’s plea states and Maynard’s statement that the incident was “isolated” and involved only “rogue officers,” DPSCS spokesman Mark Vernarelli says that the department has “already clearly stated the Secretary’s and the Department’s position on this case and on the use of excessive force.” That prior statement contended that DPSCS “acted swiftly and decisively” to hold accountable those responsible for Davis’ beatings, and stressed that 18 officers were fired and four were suspended in the aftermath of Kenneth Davis’ beatings, which also prompted administrative and criminal investigations.

Ultimately, nine officers faced state-level charges, and all but two who pleaded guilty were acquitted after their 2009 jury trials.

In his plea, Lohr admits that five other correctional officers – identified only by initials, which match the initials of five who were charged in the state cases – and two supervisors were part of the conspiracy. To date, Lohr is the only person charged in federal court over the Davis beatings.

  • Tenzin Rob Lowery Gyaltsen

    I worked in the area as a paramedic and witnessed beating by guards at all the prisons. These were done for both retaliation and for sport. I have reported guards on several different occasions and not one of them ever resulted in charges.