O’Malley (D) ran for governor on the promise that he would improve conditions in the Maryland prison system. Over more than six years as Maryland’s top elected official — a post he won in part with a crime-fighting reputation — he amassed a flurry of statistics, such as falling rates of violence behind bars.
But according to a federal indictment unsealed this spring, O’Malley’s statistics of progress masked a broken state disciplinary system that allowed more than a dozen female corrections officers to go to work for a violent prison gang with little or no fear of reprisal.
The corrections officers smuggled drugs, cellphones and money into the jail, according to prosecutors, and four of them even had children with a single incarcerated gang member. The largest state-run jail served not as a place of punishment, prosecutors said, but as a haven for members of the Black Guerrilla Family. And from inside the decrepit, 200-year-old jail, the gang amassed cash and cachet that allowed it to spread onto the streets of Baltimore.
Aides said O’Malley does not plan to attend Thursday’s hearing. But lawmakers’ questioning of Gary D. Maynard, his corrections secretary, could shed light on how much O’Malley knew about the jail’s most recent troubles, and when.
O’Malley announced late Wednesday several significant changes to jail security and the way prison investigations are handled.
The state will increase the size of its internal investigations unit by 50 percent, adding eight sworn detectives and four intelligence technicians. The unit is responsible for investigating all crimes by inmates, as well as allegations of corruption among staff members. The Washington Post reported last month that the number of investigators in the unit had remained virtually unchanged since 2006, with fewer than one person per correctional facility, despite a caseload that doubled in that time.
The governor also announced that he wants to require polygraph tests of all future correctional officer applicants. The Post reported that neither correctional officers nor investigators have to undergo polygraphs, a standard requirement for other Maryland law enforcement jobs. The legislature authorized O’Malley to begin such polygraphs three years ago, but he hasn’t.
O’Malley also said he would explore the feasibility of requiring correctional officers to pass through a full body scan machine before entering state correctional facilities to prevent incoming contraband.
“Like all Marylanders, I am outraged by the criminal wrongdoing at the Baltimore City Detention Center,” O’Malley said. “We understand there is more work to do — and we are working ever day — to build the public’s confidence in our prison system.”