Reporting Meghan McCorkell
BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Deep-rooted corruption in the city jail system. More details are coming out about a massive smuggling ring involving drugs, sex and money among inmates and officers.
This, as state lawmakers are taking prison leaders to task.
Meghan McCorkell has the just released new details.
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.
Federal agents revealed this week guards were having sex with inmates and smuggling contraband, like marijuana and cell phones, into the jail. The inmates would then sell the goods for a profit.
Investigators say the ringleader–Tavon White–made tens of thousands of dollars without leaving his prison cell.
In a phone call, he told one friend:
“This is my jail, you understand that. I’m dead serious. I make every final call in this jail, everything come to me,” said White.
White is a member of the Black Guerrilla Family gang, in jail on an attempted murder charge.
Former inmates tell WJZ the guards have no control.
“It’s pretty much its own city. Guards are not running the jail. Prisoners run the jail,” a man said. “Everywhere you look, it’s people lighting up marijuana, marijuana joints, tobacco. You can even get alcohol inside of there.”
Thirteen female corrections officers are charged with sneaking the drugs, cell phones and cigarettes into the jail on behalf of the notorious gang, the Black Guerrilla Family.
Investigators say gang members on the outside exchanged the items with officers.
FBI agents observed at least two of those drug deals go down in the parking lot of the Mondawmin Mall. Once the contraband was inside the jail, the officers were paid off.
One of them was heard saying in a wiretapped phone call:
“I am just about my money. You hear me? I love money.”
Four of the officers had sexual relationships with Tavon White, getting pregnant with his children. Two of them had his name tattooed on their bodies–one on her wrist, the other on her neck.
“What’s happening in Baltimore City is probably happening in other institutions across the state,” said Gladden.
Now lawmakers want answers about the widespread corruption.
“Clearly, there are some changes that need to be made and that is ultimately the responsibility of the head of the department,” said Delegate Jill Carter.
The head of the prison system has promised accountability. In a statement to WJZ, officials with the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services say:
“This has been an ongoing investigation as a result of the department reaching out to its federal partners in 2011.”
Of the 25 people indicted–13 are corrections officers, all female. Their union rep says the entire recruiting system of employees needs to be revamped.
“I don’t think the state of the Maryland has the strongest recruiting system because they are desperate to get people in,” said Archer Blackwell, union rep.
The corrections officers face charges of racketeering, money laundering and possession of drugs with the intent to distribute.
The guards have been suspended without pay, and further disciplinary action is expected.
The House Judiciary Committee is calling its member back to Annapolis on May 8 for a public inquiry into the state prison system.
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.