ANNAPOLIS, Md. - Maryland's governor said Tuesday that changes are needed at a Baltimore jail, including a revamped process for hiring corrections officers, after 13 female officers were among 25 people indicted in an alleged contraband-smuggling conspiracy.
Gov. Martin O'Malley called the allegations arising from last week's federal indictment ugly and shocking after court papers claimed the ring also involved sex between inmates and guards that led to four female officers becoming pregnant by a jailhouse gang leader.
"This is an ugly story," O'Malley said. "These are unpleasant and shocking allegations, but, you know, wishing they would go away doesn't make them go away. It's one thing to suppress corruption. It's quite a harder and more important ... to root out corruption."
The governor, a Democrat who is considering a presidential run in 2016, was on a trade mission to the Middle East when the indictments were announced by federal officials last week. Speaking publicly for the first time about the indictment, he said he was made aware of the federal investigation last spring.
The indictment alleges that a gang called the Black Guerrilla Family ran the contraband- and drug-smuggling scheme from inside the detention center. It charges gang members and corrections officers with conspiracy, drug possession and distribution and money laundering.
The court documents said four female officers became pregnant, one of them twice, by Tavon White, the leader of the gang.
The governor said closer scrutiny of hiring practices for corrections officials will be needed along with changes in the way people enter and exit the detention center, parts of which are more than 100 years old.
"There is a lot more work to be done," O'Malley said in calling for structural reforms involving the jail and hiring and screening of corrections officers.
He said no timeline was given to wrap up the case when he first learned of it, because a thorough investigation was needed to get as deeply as possible into the problems at the jail.
"A federal investigation involving this many partners and going after a network like this is not like, you know, getting a cheeseburger at the McDonald's drive-thru window," O'Malley said. "These things do take time and from reading the indictment you can see that every investigative tool was employed in order to make a very solid case."
O'Malley said the state is following the letter of the law with regard to the 13 corrections officers who have been indicted -- when asked why they have not been fired. O'Malley said the officers have been suspended without pay.
The governor also stood by the head of the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, Gary Maynard.
O'Malley, who took office in 2007, noted that the department that oversees the state's prisons was one of the two most troubled agencies when he arrived in Annapolis. The other is the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services.
He noted that the direction of the Baltimore detention center was replaced six months ago.
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