Gansler calls for independent probe of jail scandal

Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler called Monday for an independent investigation into the scandal at the Baltimore City Detention Center, saying the public needs to know which government employees allowed corruption to flourish.

"Public confidence in the prison system can only be restored after a full, transparent and independent review with an eye toward holding accountable the responsible public officials," Gansler wrote.

Gov. Martin O'Malley immediately rebuffed the request, saying in a letter that the federal indictments of corrections officials and inquiries by two new task forces were response enough.

"I share your desire to rid the Baltimore City Detention Center of corruption, and believe that we have put in place the necessary steps to achieve that goal while the state and federal investigations proceed," O'Malley wrote to Gansler. Both men are Democrats.

The city jail scandal — and how the state resolves it — may have political ramifications for both O'Malley, who is term-limited and considering a bid for the White House, and Gansler, who is considering a campaign for governor. The Baltimore detention center is run by the state.

In April a federal indictment alleged the Black Guerrilla Family gang effectively took over the Baltimore jail, aided by guards who helped ferry contraband and allowed gang leaders to conduct business behind bars. Twenty-five people, including 13 female corrections officers, were charged.

The U.S. attorney's office, with investigative help from the FBI, brought the indictment. The General Assembly held a hearing last week in which lawmakers questioned Gary D. Maynard, secretary of public safety and correctional services.

General Assembly leaders named a bipartisan group of state legislators to a task force charged with further investigating what went wrong at the jail and suggesting new policies that could prevent such corruption in the future. Last month, O'Malley created another task force, made up of a prosecutor, state police and internal investigators, to continue probing gang activity at the jail.

Gansler was not available for comment, but his spokesman David Paulson said the attorney general "has been inundated with calls expressing serious concerns and voicing the need for an independent review."

"An investigation that is fully independent and capable of arriving at objective conclusions would have more public confidence in the end," Paulson said.

In 2008, O'Malley appointed an independent investigator, former Maryland Attorney General Stephen H. Sachs, to probe covert surveillance by the state police of anti-death penalty and anti-war groups in 2005 and 2006. The surveillance happened under O'Malley's predecessor, Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

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