Two inmates already serving life sentences who are accused of fatally stabbing a corrections officer could face the death penalty, prosecutors said.

Two aggravating factors — a murder committed by someone serving a life term and killing a law enforcement officer — could lead to a death sentence if the inmates are convicted of first-degree murder, said a spokeswoman for the Anne Arundel County state's attorney's office.

Lee E. Stephens, 27, and Lamarr C. Harris Jr., 35, were charged Wednesday with first- and second-degree murder in the stabbing of corrections officer David McGuinn at the maximum-security Maryland House of Correction in Jessup.

McGuinn, 42, was counting inmates alone late Tuesday when he was attacked and stabbed several times in the neck and back, authorities said.

Harris is serving three life sentences, plus time for a weapons violation, for taking part in an execution-style murder of two people in 1989. Stephens is serving a life sentence plus 15 years for a 1997 murder, authorities said.

Both are now being held at the Maryland Correctional Adjustment Center in Baltimore, the state's most restrictive prison.

There have been 108 attacks on prison staff by inmates statewide during the first quarter this year, state officials said. Maryland lawmakers on Thursday scheduled an emergency hearing on escalating violence at state institutions for Aug. 8.

"Something's not working," said Sen. James DeGrange Sr., chairman of the subcommittee that oversees prisons. "These are issues that we've been talking about for a long time ... and it's not getting any better. It's getting worse."

Assaults on staff by inmates nearly doubled between fiscal year 2003-2004 and 2004-2005, according to an analysis by the Department of Legislative Services.