The last time Baltimore was headlining national news articles the Ravens had just completed their unlikely and dramatic run to a Superbowl championship. It’s been a few months, but our great city is back in the national headlines, only this time there is no celebration to be had. On the contrary, the past two weeks have been extremely embarrassing for all those involved with the City’s corrections department, as well as for city and state politicians and government officials. Over the past year law enforcement agencies from the federal and state governments have been investigating allegations of organized gang activity within the walls of the Baltimore City Detention Center. Last week, the United States Attorney unsealed the bombshell indictment that charged various inmates and prison guards with running a large-scale racket within the jail’s walls. The indictment alleged that gang members sold hundreds of thousands of dollars of drugs and other contraband that was smuggled into the jail with the help of 13 corrections officers. Other allegations include bribery, extortion, assault, robbery, witness retaliation, and even murder. All those charged in the federal indictment face lengthy prison sentences for racketeering in addition to the individual criminal acts.
While the unsealing of the indictment signaled an end to the investigation by federal law enforcement, state government officials have just begun their investigation into the scandal. For the past week, Maryland officials from the governor on down have been asking how in the world something like this could happen on such a large scale and for such a long period of time. State officials who’s jobs are no doubt on the line, are not satisfied with the arrest of 13 low level corrections officers, and are taking drastic measures to find out if any higher ups were involved. On Friday, the state corrections secretary ordered polygraph examinations of three high-level jail administrators, and has also ordered thorough integrity interviews for all city jail employees. It appears that more polygraph tests, which are administered by the Maryland State Police, are on the way and the results may determine whether disciplinary action and or criminal prosecution will follow. The state corrections secretary has actually moved his office into the Baltimore City Jail in order to facilitate his department’s investigation. Some may say this move is too little too late, as another embarrassing scandal already happened on the secretary’s watch back in 2009. The previous scandal alleged similar corruption from within the jail, following another lengthy federal investigation. In 2007 the Secretary took office and promised sweeping reforms, but it seems like same old same old down at the jail.
The next month will be crucial in determining if the corruption went any higher than the 13 female corrections officers. Additional accusations are likely to come sooner rather than later, as state lawmakers in Annapolis have scheduled a hearing on the matter for May 8th. You can bet that anyone who was responsible for running the notorious detention center will be grilled by lawmakers searching for more answers, and more people to blame.
Benjamin Herbst is a criminal defense lawyer practicing in all state and federal jurisdictions in Maryland. Contact Mr. Herbst for a free consultation about your case.