The settlement with Smith, approved on a 2 to 1 vote by Maryland’s Board of Public Works, comes as spotlights have already shone on deep-rooted gang activity as well as a recent spate of violence in the state’s prisons system. Seven inmates have been killed in Maryland since September.
Gary D. Maynard, the state’s corrections secretary, who has been under fire since last week’s indictments were announced, told the board Wednesday that with additional investigators, the department has been able to “root out” 89 corrections officers since 2010 for fraternizing with inmates or smuggling contraband. Some have been fired, he said, and others have resigned.
Maynard, who arrived in 2007, said that since the assaults against Smith, a great deal of work has been done to tackle corruption and improve management at what had been “one of the most violent prison systems in the country.”
A “hyperfocus” on gangs also includes a new database that has identified nearly 7,400 gang members since 2007, he said.
Smith said he was beaten three times in early 2007, once while restrained in a prison van, the others at the state prisons in Hagerstown and Jessup. The assault in the van was committed by an inmate who got free with the help of a corrections officer who later admitted to being a member of the Bloods gang, according to state lawyers. Smith initially sued for $1 million.
Comptroller Peter Franchot (D), the member of the board who voted against the settlement, said reforms have fallen far short.
“This is a systemic rot that existed not just at the Baltimore facility,” Franchot said. “It has festered apparently for six years. . . . I have relatives from all over the country calling me up and saying, ‘Wow, what’s going on in Maryland?’ ”
Franchot said prison personnel, not Maryland taxpayers, should be held responsible for any payout to Smith, who was released from prison last year.
The two other two board members, Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) and Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp (D), voted for the payment to Smith.
O’Malley, who took office in 2007, reiterated his continued support for Maynard, saying that he has his “full backing to do everything and anything” to combat gangs operating in state prisons. Earlier this week, O’Malley said the recent indictments were a “positive development” that reflected state and federal officials’ efforts to tackle corruption.