A year of Sun Investigates
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Corruption at Detention Center( December 17, 2013 )
For months police had been blaming the Black Guerrilla Family gang for fueling city violence as its influence grew. But few were prepared for the accusations laid out in a federal indictment in the spring: Gang members were accused of effectively taking over the Baltimore City Detention Center, with inmates forming sexual relationships with female corrections officers and smuggling drugs, cellphones and other contraband.
As state officials scrambled to coordinate their response and pledged to clamp down on the jail, The Baltimore Sun dug into the case, exploring how the gang turned the jail into a "stronghold" under the leadership of Tavon White (pictured), who rose to power as he waited three years for trial on an attempted-murder charge. One filing said a corrections lieutenant was making plans for the day White would leave. The officer approached another inmate considered White's heir apparent, and offered to allow him to continue selling contraband if he kept a lid on violence.
In all, 25 people were charged in the initial indictment, and authorities said several of the corrections officers in the case had been impregnated by inmates. In light of those allegations, The Sun examined the experiences of the female officers who supervise dangerous men. Some described inmates as "master manipulators," who try to find and exploit officers' weaknesses and flaws. Experts also cautioned that women can also be the pursuers in such relationships, which in this case proved lucrative.
Also crucial in the transactions at the center of the scandal was the payment and transaction system employed by the inmates. A Baltimore Sun investigation described how deals unfolded through a complex system that included prepaid debit cards and text messages from illicit cell phones. One brand of cards — Green Dot — is so widespread that authorities said it became part of the lexicon on the inside.
By the end of the year, many defendants — including White — had pleaded guilty. Meanwhile, the case had spread to affect 19 other people. One was a male sergeant in the corrections force who until he was indicted had been deployed in Afghanistan with the Maryland National Guard.
In December, Corrections Secretary Gary Maynard announced that the situation at the jail had "stabilized" and that he would step down for a private-sector role. The announcement came days before a legislative commission recommended a half-billion-dollar plan to replace the facility.