Video: Maryland lawmakers "not surprised" by massive prison scandal

They aren’t? They aren’t surprised that an inmate impregnated four of the prison guards and earned tens of thousands of dollars a month while incarcerated?  The FBI brought an end to Tavon White’s empire this week, taking down 13 corrections officers with it, including the mothers of White’s children, some of whom tattooed Tavon’s name on their bodies.

Good to know that Maryland lawmakers aren’t shocked by this:

The FBI says a prison gang has overrun the Baltimore City Detention Center for years. Now 25 people face federal charges.

A federal investigation into the Baltimore City Detention Center is revealing the lack of integrity and responsibility at the jail.

Senator and public defender Lisa Gladden says the drug and sex operation happening behind bars is no surprise.

“A lot of times my clients will tell me, ‘You know, they’re doing drugs over here. I know they’re doing that,’” she said.

So … what steps had Senator Gladden taken to get the BCDC cleaned up, prior to its exposure by federal investigators?  What steps had anyone taken?  WJZ points out that gang infiltration into the BCDC corrections team wasn’t exactly breaking news.  In fact, the Baltimore Sun reported that one of the guards had been “flagged for gang ties” seven years ago:

According to WJZ’s media partner, the Baltimore Sun, one of the indicted corrections officers was flagged for gang ties seven years ago, but remained on the job.

The Washington Post reported on this earlier in the week:

Thirteen female corrections officers essentially handed over control of a Baltimore jail to gang leaders, prosecutors said. The officers were charged Tuesday in a federal racketeering indictment.

The indictment described a jailhouse seemingly out of control. Four corrections officers became pregnant by one inmate. Two of them got tattoos of the inmate’s first name, Tavon — one on her neck, the other on a wrist.

The guards allegedly helped leaders of the Black Guerilla Family run their criminal enterprise in jail by smuggling cellphones, prescription pills and other contraband in their underwear, shoes and hair. One gang leader allegedly used proceeds to buy luxury cars, including a Mercedes-Benz and a BMW, which he allowed some of the officers to drive.

“The inmates literally took over ‘the asylum,’ and the detention centers became safe havens for BGF,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Stephen E. Vogt, using shorthand for the prison gang’s name.

While Maryland lawmakers aren’t surprised, the FBI and federal prosecutors certainly were:

The indictment, unsealed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, puts the spotlight on the enduring power of gangs in jails and prisons. In particular, prosecutors were highly critical of Maryland’s facilities in Baltimore, with procedures and personnel that were “completely inadequate to prevent smuggling” and lacked “effective punishment.”

If this sounds familiar to Maryland citizens, well, it should.  The same exact thing happened at the state prison next door to BCDC four years ago, and the man in charge of both promised that the problem had been cleaned up:

Four years ago, Maryland’s top corrections official vowed that a scandal at a state prison in Baltimore involving violent gang activity and corrupt guards was not widespread.

But this week, Gary D. Maynard, secretary of public safety and correctional services, found himself confronting a nearly identical crisis at a detention center next door, with 13 corrections officers chargedwith helping the same Black Guerilla Family gang launder money, have sex with guards and give orders to the street. …

But Maynard’s explanation may not satisfy other Maryland officials, who are calling for a deeper investigation of the state prison system. And he hasn’t explained how his department could have missed what in some instances, according to prosecutors, amounted to blatant evidence that corruption was occurring.

The corruption scandal casts a new light on Maynard’s tenure in Maryland, which began six years ago with great promise that he would usher in badly needed reforms. It also comes at a sensitive time for his boss, Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), who is weighing a 2016 presidential bid.

And remember that guard flagged for gang ties in 2006?  It turns out that there were a lot more than just one — and that officials knew all about it:

Maynard also said he did not know that one of the corrections officers indicted this week had been the subject of a 2006 civil lawsuit brought by an inmate in federal court alleging that she left his cell door unlocked so he could be attacked by gang members and that she withheld treatment for his 32 stab wounds.

The victim’s attorney argued that the attack was part of a larger problem of gangs infiltrating the ranks of corrections officers. The guard denied colluding with inmates; the two sides settled before going to trial. The guard kept her job, despite court records showing that the victim had uncovered a confidential report prepared in 2006 by a prison intelligence unit that identified 16 guards — including the one named in the suit — with ties to gangs such as BGF.

Well, under those circumstances, no one should be surprised that corrections officers with gang ties kept working for the state — er, Tavon White.  Maryland voters should demand a housecleaning from the top down — and conduct it themselves in the next election.

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