Gansler says ‘independent’ probe needed of troubled Baltimore jail


Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler attends a charity event in September 2012. (Photo by Rebecca D'Angelo For the Washington Post)

Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler (D) suggested Monday that Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) appoint a special counsel to conduct an investigation into the scandal at a Baltimore jail, arguing that other inquiries underway are not sufficient.

“Public confidence in the prison system can only be restored after a full, transparent and independent review with an eye toward holding accountable the responsible public officials,” Gansler said in a letter to O’Malley.

O’Malley dismissed the advice in a letter to Gansler later in the day, noting that prosecutors are continuing to look into activities at the Baltimore City Detention Center.

According to a federal indictment unsealed in April, members of the Black Guerilla Family gang colluded with 13 corrections officers to launder money and smuggle drugs and cellphones into the state-run jail. Four guards had children with one incarcerated gang member, according to prosecutors.

“We are already beyond the question of whether special counsel should be appointed to conduct an investigation, as the United States Attorney and Baltimore City State’s Attorney, with full subpoena and criminal investigative powers, have open and active cases against those accused of corruption,” O’Malley said. “We will continue to be supportive of their efforts.”

More Post coverage of the Maryland jail scandal.

O’Malley also mentioned that last week the General Assembly launched what leaders say will be a months-long review of ways to strengthen Maryland’s correctional system.

In his letter, Gansler, who is gearing up to run for governor, called such steps “gratifying.” But he said “more needs to be done.”

“Specifically, Marylanders have a right to know who within the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services knew what, and when,” Gansler said.

Among the questions Gansler said should be answered: “How could (the department) have allowed a culture of corruption to flourish for years within state prisons? What efforts were made to act on information the department possessed in late 2006 that correctional officers were affiliated with gangs? How far up the chain of command was this information communicated?”

Gansler spokesman David Paulson stressed that the primary benefit of a special counsel would be his “independence.”

“This office has been inundated with calls for an independent review of the detention center issues,” Paulson said.

O’Malley took a similar step in 2008, appointing former attorney general Stephen H. Sachs (D) to conduct an independent review of Maryland State Police surveillance of anti-death penalty and anti-war groups in 2005 and 2006.

In his letter to Gansler, O’Malley also notes that Gansler’s office is responsible for representing corrections officials and says Gansler’s attorneys have been “thoroughly engaged” in efforts to combat gangs and corruption.

In the governor’s race, O’Malley has endorsed Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (D), a Democratic rival to Gansler. Brown announced his bid last month. Gansler has yet to formally announce his candidacy.

John Wagner has covered Maryland government and politics for The Post since 2004.
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