The jail supervisor said he was astounded when Allison was rehired. “Dishonest officers feel empowered” when they beat the system, he said. “And you see what happened.”
A dysfunctional system
Allison and the 12 other indicted officers operated in an environment where there was “no effective punishment,” federal investigators said in charging documents. The guards allegedly served as drug mules and, in several cases, had sex with inmates, with little fear of serious consequences. Four of the indicted officers became pregnant by White, and two tattooed his name on their bodies. Only one of the guards has entered a plea on the charges, saying she is not guilty; Allison and the others have yet to be arraigned.
O’Malley and Gary D. Maynard, the head of the prison system, have expressed revulsion at the allegations, while defending their record of rooting out corruption.
Statistics show the department’s disciplinary system does work, said Rick Binetti, state corrections spokesman.
Since O’Malley took office, 112 corrections officers have been fired or forced to resign because of alleged wrongdoing, Binetti said. When officers challenge the dismissals, judges uphold the firings three-quarters of the time.
But departmental records also show that Maryland relies heavily on forced resignations: 41 of the 112 resigned in lieu of dismissal or charges being filed in court. Maryland, in fact, rarely prosecutes officers for offenses short of violent abuses of inmates, state and court records show. By comparison, Virginia fired nearly 100 of its 12,000 guards last year, state officials there said.
Maryland officials acknowledged that changes are needed, especially at the detention center. The governor’s office said Monday night that O’Malley will soon announce the creation of a task force to investigate and prosecute gang activity and corruption at the jail. The 10-person task force will be made up of corrections investigators, Maryland State Police officers and an assistant state’s attorney in Baltimore.
The chief of security at the Baltimore jail has been replaced. This month, Maynard moved his office into the detention center and vowed to cleanse the jail of its culture of complicity.
The head of the prison system’s internal investigations unit announced his resignation two weeks ago, though officials maintain that his departure is unrelated to the probe at the jail. And O’Malley has ordered a review of the disciplinary process, which was altered three years ago to give corrections officers the right to appeal certain suspensions, firings and other punishments to a board of their peers. The Correctional Officers’ Bill of Rights was criticized by federal investigators last month for making it too hard to weed out compromised guards. But, as the Antonia Allison case demonstrates, the disciplinary dysfunction at the jail existed long before those protections were signed into law.