JESSUP, Md. (WJZ) — Thousands of visitors went behind the bars at Maryland’s House of Correction in Jessup this weekend. The state shut down the maximum security prison five years ago.
As Gigi Barnett found, visitors learned about its history and horrors.
Behind the barbed wire at the Maryland House of Correction, some of the state’s most violent offenders served time. Prisoners and guards are gone now, but this weekend, the state unlocked the cells and opened the halls for tours.
“We live in Jessup so we know a lot of people that worked here, and people that were housed here also,” said visitor Barbara Tall.
Built in 1879, the prison is one of the state’s oldest correctional facilities but the cells are too small for a modern jail. The inmates were also increasingly violent and in 2006, the narrow halls became a death trap for Corporal David McGuinn when he was ambushed by two inmates who stabbed him to death. The murder forced the state to shut the House of Correction down for good.
“We had the only armory that had the windows that opened that looked into the yard,” said Lawrence Dinisio.
The former correctional officer worked at the prison between 1965 and 1986. He came back this weekend for one reason only–to give his wife a tour.
“Governor O’Malley got involved and slam-dunked this place. It should have been closed many years ago,” he said.
It wasn’t all bad—at least not for Gary Hornbaker. He was the warden on duty when the prison closed.
This weekend’s tour is the last step before a brick-by-brick deconstruction begins in the coming months.
“I’ll have a tear when it’s knocked down. I’m sure I will, ’cause it’s played a big role in my life,” Hornbaker said. “For the most part, 85 percent of everyone who came here just wanted to do their time and go home.”
More than 2,000 people are expected to tour the House of Correction this weekend.
The state says more than $80,000 worth of scrap metal from the prison has already been used in other correctional facilities.