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Maryland lawmakers to begin deeper look at Baltimore jail scandal next week

A prisoner transport van departs from the Baltimore City Detention Center on Thursday, June 6, 2013, in Baltimore. (Patrick Semansky/Associated Press)

Maryland lawmakers plan to start digging deeper next week into the problems that came to light at a Baltimore jail as a new commission begins a series of hearings and site visits to state and local correctional facilities.

“We have a responsibility to the public, to the employees, to the people in the system to ensure that we have a system that can be relied on,” said Del. Guy J. Guzzone (D-Howard), co-chairman of a newly appointed special joint commission.

The 14-member commission, which plans to meet Thursday, was established in the wake of an initial hearing earlier this month by a panel of legislative leaders on the scandal at the Baltimore City Detention Center.

A violent prison gang allegedly colluded with 13 corrections officers to launder money and smuggle drugs and cellphones into the state-run facility, according to a federal indictment. Four guards had children with one incarcerated gang member, according to prosecutors, who are continuing to investigate what they have described as an out-of-control jail.

Guzzone and Sen. James E. DeGrange Sr. (D-Anne Arundel), the commission’s other co-chairman, said they hope to come up with a range of recommendations related to staffing, training, use of technology and other issues affecting Maryland’s corrections system in advance of the next legislative session, which starts in January.

“It’s an extremely important issue, and we need to gather all the information we can and improve the situation,” DeGrange said.

DeGrange said he will be interested in seeing the operations of other detention centers around the state, as well as the one in Baltimore. Counties run the other local jails, while the state assumed control of the detention center in Baltimore in 1991.

The commission also plans to examine the state’s prisons, which DeGrange described as “a whole different type of facility” than the local detention centers.

Corrections Secretary Gary D. Maynard is expected to appear at Thursday’s commission meeting in Annapolis, which will also include a briefing by legislative staff, the lawmakers said.

John Wagner is a political reporter covering the race for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.

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