Maryland corrections secretary Gary D. Maynard is scheduled to appear June 19 before a joint legislative panel looking into problems at a Baltimore jail and in the state’s prison system more broadly, lawmakers said Friday.
The meeting of the Legislative Policy Committee, made up of leading House and Senate members, will be the first formal public hearing since last month’s federal indictments of 25 inmates and corrections guards on racketeering and other charges.
Prosecutors said the Black Guerilla Family gang essentially took over the state-run Baltimore City Detention Center. Officers smuggled in cellphones and drugs for gang members and had sex with them.
House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) have said they will set up a special task force following the hearing to look at legislative and budgetary measures that can be put in place during next year’s session, which starts in January.
Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), who has expressed confidence in Maynard, said Thursday that he will try again to get lawmakers to stiffen penalties on inmates and guards involved in smuggling cellphones into state prisons.
That measure has been rejected for the past four years by the House Judiciary Committee, whose members have argued that prosecutors have not been aggressive enough in targeting cellphone use under the current law.
Law-enforcement officials said cellphones enable gang members to communicate both inside the prison and with the outside world.
Republicans have stepped up their criticism of the O’Malley administration’s handling of the issue in recent days. On Friday, several GOP lawmakers toured the Baltimore jail, with some calling for its replacement with a more modern facility.