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Md. Lawmaker Wants Tougher Penalties For Inmates Amid Prison Scandal

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BALTIMORE (WJZ)  — A new call to action. Some lawmakers are pressing for reforms after stunning revelations about corrupt correctional officers at the Baltimore City Detention Center.

Mike Hellgren reports, as the governor again responds to tough questions.

Governor O’Malley says he inherited the problem; one delegate says the General Assembly simply needs to do more.

Some lawmakers believe this federal indictment only scratched the surfaces. It alleges officers were having sex, having babies, with inmates who were being smuggled illicit cell phones to order crimes.

“There are so many things the department can be forced to do through the General Assembly, and unfortunately, we’re just not doing it,” said Del. John W.E. Cluster, Jr.

“If you’ve got a problem, you’ve got to root out everybody. You just can’t cut the head off. You’ve got to go all the way down the body and go all the way to the bottom,” he continued.

Delegate John Cluster says he’s again going to push legislation that would toughen penalties for inmates who repeatedly obtain cell phones. It’s been rejected time and time again.

“We do have a problem down there, and we should have been trying to fix this years ago and not wait until this big story broke,” said Del. Cluster.

This week, the state removed the city detention center’s security chief, but top administrators remain, including the big boss, Public Safety Secretary Gary Maynard, who’s received strong backing from the governor.

Gov. O’Malley: “It’s been going on for 40 years.”

Reporter: “Well, how did he not know about it then?”

Gov. O’Malley: “He was brought here to clean it up.”

“This is the most important investigation on prison related gang corruption that has ever happened in our state. And it happened because we initiated it,” Gov. O’Malley continued.

The governor did blame the FCC for not allowing the state to block cell phone signals in prisons.

Delegate Cluster believes the problem may go well beyond the city detention center.

“I think this investigation is far from being through, and I think that’s why we need to reserve judgment until we can finally get to the end of this investigation about what’s going on,”  Del. Cluster said.

The security chief who was let go was the third in command. The state would not say why she was removed. She is the highest ranking official to lose her job since these indictments became public.

A General Assembly hearing scheduled for this week has now been moved to next month. It will be a joint House and Senate briefing on the corruption scandal.

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