13 Prison guards indicted for smuggling drugs, cellphones into prisons

BALTIMORE (WMAR) - There is new information on the allegations coming out of the Baltimore City Detention Center – that female correctional officers helped members of a dangerous prison gang and had sex with inmates behind bars.

An indictment unsealed on Tuesday alleges that the "Black Guerilla Family" street gang -- not the state or the correctional officers -- runs the Baltimore City Detention Center.

The 25 defendants are charged with racketeering -- conspiring to sell drugs inside the facility.

But how could prisoners have access to marijuana, prescription drugs and money?

Easy -- investgators say the correctional officers walked right into the jail with it.

"This occurred because unlike (correctional officers) employed elsewhere in Maryland, COs in Baltimore City are not required to remove their shoes when entering a facility," said Special Agent Steve Vogt, of the FBI.

And so, the indictment alleges that 13 female correctional officers stashed drugs and other contraband in their shoes or other containers, and delivered it to Black Guerilla Family or "BGF" members inside the jail.

Investigators say the 13 COs had sex inside the prison with gang members.  The lead defendant -- Tavon White -- is alleged to have impregnated four separate correctional officers; one of them has two of his children.

The indictment indicates BGF recruits are taught to target a specific type of correctional officer -- women with low self-esteem, insecurities and according to the indictment, "certain physical attributes."

"Today is about a handful of correctional officers who made a series of wrong choices," said Gary Maynard, secretary of the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.

The correctional officers are also accused of "tipping off" BGF members about when searches for contraband might be happening.

Baltimore City Police Commissioner Anthony Batts says the BGF is responsible for a considerable amount of violence in Baltimore City; he says arrests send a message.

"Whether in the prisons or on the streets we will drive the black guerilla family into the ground," he said.

The 13 correctional officers who have been charged in this case have been suspended without pay, and could be fired.  Other supervisors could face disciplinary action as well.

Sec. Maynard said that policy about not forcing correctional officers to remove their shoes when they enter the jail has not changed; he would only say the department is moving toward more standardization of its jails.

Tavon White has been transferred out of the Baltimore City Detention Center.  His trial on a charge of attempted murder -- the reason he's there in the first place – begins on Wednesday.

It will be the third time prosecutors tried to convict him on the charge; two previous trials ended with hung juries.

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