By Tracey Leong

BALTIMORE, Md. (WJZ)– 80 people were charged for a racketeering and conspiracy Wednesday at the Eastern Correctional Institute in Westover, in one of the biggest prison smuggling rings busted on the Eastern Shore.

The investigation revealed officers charged $500 per package smuggled inside the prison or accepting sex with the inmates as payment. A conspiracy that was revealed by a correctional officer to a warden back in 2013.

A federal indictment accuses 80 people including 18 correctional officers, 35 inmates and 27 “outside” facilitators of racketeering conspiracy inside the Eastern Correctional Institution.

The aggressive joint investigation demonstrated Maryland’s commitment to cracking down on this deep rooted issue.

“Decades of corruption can’t be fixed in 21 months we are just beginning,” said Stephen Moyer, secretary of Maryland Public Safety. “You go after the bad people then we make sure we are hiring the right people to do this type of work.”

The ECI investigation revealed correctional officers took payments from outside facilitators and inmates to smuggle in drugs, cell phones and even pornographic movies.

Corruption behind bars isn’t new in Maryland, just last year Baltimore City correctional officers and inmates were convicted of a similar conspiracy.

The mastermind was former Black Guerrilla Family leader Tavon White ran an illegal operation with inmates and correctional officers while serving time at the Baltimore City detention center.

Technology to detect cell phones and contraband inside the prisons is now being explored and new hiring policies have already been implemented.

“We do actual background checks and we also do polygraphs,” said Moyer.

Statewide there are more than 7000 correctional officers. A major overhaul is exactly what the union representative for these workers and president of AFSCME, Patrick Moran supports.

“We have more eyes and ears in the ground doing this job, that creates more checks and balances,” said Moran.

There is now an added monetary incentive for state employees who recommend correctional officer candidates, rewarding the staff for bringing in other good officers.

The prisons are also working to change the way inmates receive outside mail to crackdown on the illegal items being sent.

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