Md. Republicans call for independent investigator for state prison system


An indictment alleges that correctional officers and inmates engaged in criminal activity in the Baltimore City Detention Center. Maryland Republicans are calling for an independent investigator for prisons in the state. (Lloyd Fox/Baltimore Sun)

The newly elected leader of Maryland’s House Republicans on Thursday demanded an outside investigation into alleged corruption among guards and gang members at a state-run detention center in Baltimore.

Flanked by fellow Republicans, Del. Nicholaus R. Kipke (Anne Arundel) also called on Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) to send Maryland State Police to the Baltimore City Detention Center to block smuggled contraband by frisking guards on their way in.

“Right now, we don’t know who are the good guys from the bad guys,” said Del. John W.E. Cluster Jr. (Baltimore County), a retired police officer.

In a sweeping indictment last month, federal prosecutors accused 13 female corrections officers of helping members of the Black Guerilla Family gang run a vast criminal conspiracy behind bars by smuggling in drugs, cellphones and other contraband. Prosecutors said four of the officers became pregnant as a result of liaisons with a single inmate who allegedly led the operation inside the 8,000-inmate jail.

The federal charges against the officers include racketeering, money laundering and drug offenses.

O’Malley’s office mostly shrugged off the Republicans’ demands. In a statement that was e-mailed to reporters minutes before the GOP news conference, the governor said his administration is working with federal law enforcement officials as it conducts a top-to-bottom review at the Baltimore jail.

“We have zero tolerance for corruption,” O’Malley said. “When members of murder networks are behind bars, the public has every right to expect that they will be prevented from committing further crimes.”

The governor’s office referred questions to a spokesman for O’Malley’s secretary of corrections, Gary D. Maynard. Maynard moved his office into the jail after the federal indictment was unsealed; last week, he dismissed the jail’s head of security.

Prisons spokesman Rick Binetti said Maynard’s review will be comprehensive and dismissed the need to send in state police because the department has already tightened protocols for frisking officers as they enter state correctional facilities. In Maryland, corrections officers search their colleagues, but after the indictment, Maynard ordered wardens and jail administrators to directly supervise the process.

Binetti also noted that under a new Maryland law, each of the state’s two dozen correctional facilities will be audited on a three-year cycle in order to meet standards for national accreditation.

Two have been audited and accredited so far, he said.

But Kipke pointed to a second federal indictment, unsealed this week, involving criminal gang activity conducted from behind bars of another state-run detention facility as evidence that a broader inquiry is necessary.

The second indictment includes allegations of gang activity, money and drugs in the facility, which is across the street from the troubled state-run city jail.

Prosecutors in the latest case charged 18 alleged members of the Bloods street gang with racket­eering in connection with selling drugs and sharing firearms for criminal activity in and around Howard County.

Investigators allege in court papers that one of the defendants, Michael D. Johnson of Columbia, continued his Bloods affiliation while locked up at the Chesapeake Detention Facility on federal armed-robbery charges.

The state-run jail houses federal inmates awaiting trial. In more than 50 wiretapped phone calls, Johnson remained in contact with criminal associates and discussed “narcotics trafficking and gang business,” according to a federal affidavit.

In jail, Johnson had access to marijuana and prescription drugs, according to the affidavit, and received financial support from gang members through prepaid debit cards similar to those allegedly used by members of the Black Guerilla Family in the city jail.

Kipke said that O’Malley’s administration has done far too little to address gang violence in the prison system — a problem the indictment said had been known since at least 2006.

“You are the chief executive of this state,” Kipke said of O’Malley.

“We ask that you stop running around the country, running for president. Get back into your office, and take responsibility for the office of which you have been elected.”

Ann E. Marimow contributed to this report.

Aaron Davis covers D.C. government and politics for The Post and wants to hear your story about how D.C. works — or how it doesn’t.
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