As the Inquisitr recently reported, a massive federal racketeering and drug-trafficking case at Maryland’s largest prison indicates how deep-rooted the corruption in the criminal justice system is, and experts say that such corruption has its grips on the U.S. corrections system.
Prosecutors disclosed details this past week about the indictment of 80 guards, as well as inmates and outsiders and it is the biggest federal case ever filed in Maryland. The case highlights the challenges that the corrupt and tarnished state system faces even following years of reforms, as government officials and prison advocates state.
A tip from a prison guard has yielded the single largest federal case in Maryland’s history: https://t.co/eqe4ueFXb8
— NBCWashington (@nbcwashington) October 6, 2016
Due to the surge of nationwide incarceration in recent years, correctional facilities struggle to hire enough qualified officers to guard the prisons that are over-crowded. This is in part because of the low wages and dangers in working conditions at the facilities, thereby allowing corruption to more easily fester under the guard of the unqualified or financially- strained.
“With a record number of people in prison, a record number of employees, the possibilities of people becoming tempted to engage in this type of activity are quite widespread. “
Maryland’s public safety and corrections secretary, Stephen Moyer, stated that the indictments unsealed on Wednesday by the federal grand jury, are a part of a “long-running battle against corruption.”
Prison staff smuggling contraband. Sound familiar? U.S. Officials Indict 80 in Maryland Prison Corruption Case – WSJ https://t.co/q5s5U4ggZP
— Alex Cavendish (@PrisonUK) October 6, 2016
As a means to weed out the corrupt, the state has imposed polygraph testing of all guards as a means to discern which guards are qualified. It caused a 32 percent spike in prison-related corruption cases since 2013, also discovered with help of dogs trained to sniff out contraband and cell phones.
“You’ve got to bring the full power of, in this case, federal law to ensure that when anybody else starts to ‘flip’ that they had better think twice, because we’re going to be there to get them,” Moyer said, using a slang term for going over to an enemy’s side.
The indictments that were unsealed this week charged 18 corrections officers, 35 inmates, and 27 outsiders with running a smuggling operation inside the medium-security Eastern Correctional Institution in Maryland. The publication notes the details regarding the case.
“Relying partly on wiretap evidence, prosecutors charged the guards with bringing in narcotics, cell phones, pornographic DVDs and tobacco in exchange for money and sex with inmates. One guard is accused of arranging for prisoners to attack an inmate suspected of being an informant.”
The case has been referred to as not unique by David Fathi, director of American Civil Liberties Union National Prison Project. Just last month, two guards in Tennessee were charged with having sex with inmates, as one recent example. In addition, the FBI uncovered corruption in February at nine Georgia prisons and dozens of officers were arrested in a sting.
“The scale in Maryland might be unusual, but the conduct is not,” Fathi said in a telephone interview.
Prisons have become desperate to hire new guards and officers, and the corruption causes questions to be raised about vetting procedures when hiring new officers.
Although there has been a slight drop in the number of inmates in the U.S. prison system, the Justice Department shares numbers that U.S. prisons held approximately 1.6 million inmates at the end of 2014, which is up almost 12 percent since 2000. In addition to the job as a prison guard being dangerous and low-paying, officers are also only given 12 weeks of training. When compared to the two years guards in German prisons receive, it seems changes in the corrections hiring and training system needs to be made within the United States.
Fathi states that this problem is entirely fixable, saying “You get what you pay for.” The average starting pay for a corrections officer is $38,000, whereas a state trooper will earn $46,000 upon graduation.
Reuters shares statistics about the prison system and the ratio of inmate to officer.
“Maryland’s prisons have about 21,000 inmates and 7,000 correctional officers, with about 700 jobs vacant, said Patrick Moran, head of the union that represents prison workers. That is an inmate/officer ratio of 3 to 1. A 2010 survey by the American Association of State Correctional Administrators of federal prisons and 28 states showed an average inmate/officer ratio of 3 to 2. The ratio of inmates to officers and supervisors was 5 to 1.”
[Featured Image by Joe Raedle/Getty Images]