The New Yorker examines BGF scandal at the Baltimore jail

It's almost a year since federal authorities announced that Tavon White and the Black Guerrilla Family gang had corrupted the Baltimore City Detention Center from the inside out, and this week's New Yorker magazine has an expansive look at the case.

Staff writer Jeffrey Toobin casts a close eye over the sexual dynamics in the jail, pointing to misogynistic ideas espoused by the BGF's founder in the 1960s, and repeated up by former Maryland gang leader Eric Brown.

George Jackson, who founded the BGF in a California prison, was steeped in many of the left wing ideas popular in the 1960s, but he roundly rejected calls for women's rights and espoused polygamy as a way to care for women who would otherwise go unmarried, according to Toobin.

Decades later, Brown returned to the theme in his "Black Book" arguing that moves to incarcerate black men had given black women a "false sense of empowerment."

"The case offers a lesson in how much can go wrong in a single jail and in relations between the sexes," Toobin writes. "Cynical and devious men succeeded in dominating who were nominally their keepers."

About half of the 44 people charged in the case have pleaded guilty, including White, who is awaiting sentencing.

Toobin, who is also a legal analyst for CNN, spent a number of months on the story, attending a press conference at the jail during which Gov. Martin O'Malley announced that a system to block calls from contraband phones was up and running. 

The article is sprinkled throughout with material gleaned through interviews with anonymous former inmates and corrections officers, who confirm much of what the federal investigation turned up.

One former inmate said anything available on the street was also for sale inside. Cellphones, which had been the instrument of the gang's power, were known as "bikes" and chargers as "pumps", Toobin writes, and were sold on the inside for $300.

The tabloid New York Post meanwhile, compares Toobin's piece with that by one of his colleagues on the Bridgegate scandal engulfing Gov. Chris Christie.

"Funny how many similarities the state of New Jersey seems to have with the Baltimore City Detention Center, where according to reporter Jeffrey Toobin, gang leaders run the prison through intimidation and various forms of palm greasing," a reporter for the paper wrote.

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