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Prison guards want safer parking after newly-released inmate attacks officer

The Corrections officer, 66, was leaving work when a former prisoner allegedly held him up and tried to steal his car.
An aerial view of city jails along State Road in Northeast Philly. (WIkimedia Commons)

The Philadelphia Corrections officers' union is complaining about safety issues related to parking, after a just-released inmate allegedly tried to carjack a guard leaving work on Friday night right outside the jail from which he'd just been released. 

Defendant Jamal Bennett, 26, was released from Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility at 8501 State Road around 10:30 p.m. on Feb. 9 after reportedly serving time on a probation violation related to a weapons charge.

Bennett "decided that his first act of freedom would be to attack and physically assault Correctional Officer Michael Maratea while attempting to take his car and Phone in the prison parking lot," said Local 159 President Lorenzo North.

Bennett was reportedly in critical but stable condition after being shot once in the chest during the attempted robbery of the 66-year-old guard, reportedly in self-defense. The guard was also hospitalized and treated for head and neck pain.

North said he has complained for years to prison administrators about safety concerns in prison parking lots, which are used by both staff and inmates' families and visitors.

"Correctional Officers currently park next to inmates’ families and have to receive threats and verbal abuse while going to work. This is a dangerous situation," North said. "No ex-inmate or any visitor should park in the same parking lot as staff. ... No other prison allows visitors to park with correctional staff but the Philadelphia Department of Prisons."

Maratea, a Correctional officer for 27 years, had just gotten off work around 11:04 p.m. when Bennett allegedly tried to rob him.  The two struggled, and North said that Maratea shot Bennett after he tried to grab Maratea's licensed firearm.

No mugshot of Bennett was available, as he remains hospitalized, but he has been formally charged with robbery, attempted theft, unlawful taking, simple assault and reckless endangerment, police said.

This last stay was his seventh time in a Philly jail since 2011, according to the Philly Department of Prisons.

North, who also believes that Philly corrections officers should not be required to live in the city where they may come in contact with former inmates, now wants prison administrators to change the parking rules.

"The incident with Officer Maratea happened numerous times, when correctional officer meet ex-inmates on the street, at the market, while going to church, while taking their kids to school and out to dinner with their families," North said.

"I request the commissioner of prisons to make one big decision on behalf of the correctional officers' safety: [to make] all parking on prisons ground for correctional officers only."

The Department of Prisons did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Local 159's complaints.