HAGERSTOWN, Md. (AP) -- Maryland's prison agency is reporting a spike in inmate-on-inmate homicides.
The Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services says there were seven such deaths last year. That compares with an average of about four per year since 2001.
Spokesman Rick Binetti says the killings were isolated incidents and don't reflect a drop in security.
He says the department's focus on reducing gang violence has helped cut the number of serious assaults by inmates on both staff members and other prisoners.
Binetti says those reductions also reflect increased information-sharing among state prison managers and local law enforcement agencies.
He says overall inmate deaths, including suicides, are also down.
Binetti says "the institutions have never been safer."
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