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O'Malley forms city task force to look into jail corruption

Justice SystemGang ActivityExecutive BranchCell PhonesSafety of Citizens

A month after a federal indictment alleged widespread corruption at the Baltimore City Detention Center, Gov. Martin O'Malley on Monday announced a new task force charged with pushing the inquisition further.

O'Malley said in a statement "there is much more work to do" and called the new task force "a powerful new weapon in our arsenal."

The task force comes as O'Malley has been under fire for his handling of the April indictment of 13 correctional officers accused of helping a dozen members of the Black Guerrilla Family gang effectively take over the jail — allegations that span more than 18 months. The indictment accused the guards of helping smuggle drugs and cell phones to gang members behind bars.

"The governor should have had an aggressive response to this problem, but it's welcome news that he's finally taking it seriously," said House Minority Leader Nicholaus R. Kipke, an Anne Arundel County Republican.

The City Correctional Task Force, to be led by a city assistant state's attorney, was created to unearth gang activity in jails and corrupt corrections officers — first at the troubled Baltimore facility and then at other state prisons.

The governor initially hailed the indictment as a victory in the fight against gang activity, although within days Public Safety and Correctional Service Secretary Gary D. Maynard moved his office into the jail and began conducting polygraphs of employees. O'Malley, who was traveling in Israel when the indictments were unsealed, later released a list of reforms that did not quiet critics who called him slow to react and even slower to take responsibility.

O'Malley and his aides have pointed out that they asked federal officials to investigate gang activity in Maryland prisons.

Last week, corrections officials were investigating recent Facebook and Instagram posts that appeared to be taken with cell phones inside the Baltimore jail.

The new task force will be coordinated by Baltimore Assistant State's Attorney Dana Middleton, a member of the Correctional Reform Section of the Maryland State Bar Association, which works to get lawyers interested in improving prisons and jails.

The team will also have three Maryland State Police investigators and six investigators from the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.

Aides to O'Malley said the new task force will continue and build on the work of the federal task force that included the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Attorneys, the Drug Enforcement Agency and U.S. Marshals.

It was not immediately clear Monday whether the federal task force is still investigating gang activities in Maryland facilities.

State lawmakers have called a June 6 hearing to investigate what led to the corruption at the Baltimore jail.

Baltimore State's Attorney Gregg L. Bernstein said the new task force will unite resources and "have a serious impact and complement the progress already made."

Baltimore Sun reporter Ian Duncan contributed to this article.

ecox@baltsun.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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