Officials: Officers acted outside scope of authority

BALTIMORE (WMAR) - Referring to them as "bad apples," union officials admit it does appear that at least some of the 13 correctional officers from the Baltimore City Detention Center who were indicted last week acted outside the scope of their authority.

Every officer, and in fact every employee at the facility is now under scrutiny.

On Tuesday, one week after the announcement that 25 people including those 13 officers had been indicted, AFSCME of Maryland organized a news conference featuring retired correctional officers.

Sheila Hill retired after 25 years at the Patuxent Institution in Jessup.  She said the coaxing from inmates, starts innocently enough.

"(They might say) ‘that's a nice ink pen, looks like it writes good.  Can I have that?' But those kinds of things through training you learn is that 'no' is the answer," she said, adding that if she'd given the pen to the inmate it would be considered contraband and she could face disciplinary action.

Plus the inmate knows he can get more.  "If she gives me the ink pen, what else will she give me, and then they can build up from there," Hill said.

Federal investigators say Tavon White, the alleged ringleader of the "Black Guerilla Family" gang at the Baltimore City Detention Center got much more from correctional officers there.

The 13 officers are accused of enabling White to control contraband including drugs, cell phones, and thousands of dollars in cash on "Green Dot" cards.  Investigators also say white impregnated four of them.

"These 13 correctional officers that are being charged are a small small small percentage of bad apples," said Glen Middleton, AFSCME's executive director in Baltimore, who also worked as a correctional officer at BCDC when it was known as the Baltimore City Jail.

He said he believes the corruption goes higher up than the COs.  "I believe the buck doesn't just stop with these 13 that have been indicted," Middleton said.

Sheila Hill and the other retired correctional officers said the root of the scandal lies in understaffed prisons -- fewer correctional officers trying to watch more inmates.  They say that allowed what the FBI describes as a street gang to takeover of the Baltimore City Detention Center.

"Every institution's staffing level is low, and then on top of that right now they're collapsing posts inside the institutions to save on overtime," said retired correctional officer Steve Berger.

This week the Department of Corrections has been issuing polygraph tests to administrators at BCDC.  The tests are scheduled to expand to the correctional officers there starting on Wednesday.

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