ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — The Board of Public Works approved a $40,000 settlement on Wednesday for a former inmate who was beaten on three occasions in 2007 after he claimed he ended his involvement in a smuggling ring that included a corrupt former corrections officer.
The board voted 2-1 to approve the settlement. Gov. Martin O’Malley’s administration has faced high-profile publicity in the aftermath of a federal indictment last week of 25 people, including 13 correctional officers, in an alleged contraband-smuggling conspiracy at the Baltimore City Detention Center.
The settlement involved former inmate Michael Smith, who was confined at the jail in 2006, when he entered an arrangement with the “Bloods” prison gang and an officer to smuggle heroin, tobacco and cell phones into the facility from October to December of that year. After Smith ended the arrangement, he claims the former officer threatened to spread word he was a “snitch.” Smith was assaulted on three separate occasions in 2007, once while returning to the detention center from court in a prison transport van, again at the Maryland Correctional Institution-Hagerstown and at the Brockbridge Correctional Facility.
Comptroller Peter Franchot, a board member, voted against the settlement. He questioned whether the corruption problem in Maryland prisons that predated the O’Malley administration has been adequately addressed after more than six years of the governor’s tenure.
“I can’t help but wonder whether the dysfunction that we read about recently is still in existence at the other facilities around the state, and I guess my concern on behalf of the taxpayers is that as these cases begin to emerge from the woodwork … the taxpayers are going to be faced with a lot of suits like this, where we’re going to be asking the taxpayers to pay for this mess.”
O’Malley, who voted for the settlement, reiterated points he made on Tuesday, when he addressed the recent indictment publicly for the first time after returning from a trade mission to the Middle East. The governor underscored steps his administration has taken to reduce crime in Maryland jails, including the closing of the House of Correction in Jessup 52 days into his administration in 2007.
O’Malley also noted he created a task force to study gang problems in 2008; he also formed the Maryland Joint Prison Task Force in 2011 to align federal, state and local law enforcement to go after corruption in the prison system. O’Malley underscored this week that he was made aware of the investigation that led to the recent indictments last year — and that it took time to develop a thorough case to get as deep as possible into the problem.
“We have a lot of work that we still need to do, but there’s a lot of progress that has been made, including the capture of 77 percent more cell phones than we ever captured before, including soon-to-be-deployed technology that will allow us to redirect cell phones in any prison in Maryland so as to take away this tool,” O’Malley said at the board meeting.
O’Malley also noted significant reductions in staff assaults and inmate-on-inmate attacks.
Gary Maynard, the secretary of the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, also spoke about steps the administration has taken to address what was once known as one of the most violent prison systems in the country. Maynard also said last week’s indictments are a direct result of efforts the department has made in recent years after the establishment of the task force.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)