That giant flushing sound you hear is Martin O’Malley’s 2016 presidential campaign going down the toilet at the Baltimore City Detention Center.
The BCDC is the city’s jail but, like so many other city facilities, it’s financed and managed by the state. Except, according to last week’s federal indictments, at the BCDC it’s hard to tell the criminal inmates from the criminal guards.
The feds indicted 25 people including 13 female guards for smuggling, racketeering, money laundering, illegal drugs and turning the BCDC into a gang “stronghold” run by the Black Guerrilla Family.
According to the indictments, corrupt jail guards smuggled drugs, cellphones and other contraband, took bribes and let the gang run the jail.
And, apparently the female guards took the term “inmate” literally. While some guards stood watch, other guards had sex with gang members. Tavon White, the BGF’s leader, knocked up four guards, one twice. In gratitude the guards tattooed his name on their bodies.
U.S. Prosecutor Rod Rosenstein said “correctional officers were in bed with BGF inmates.” Wow, talk about an apt metaphor. What’s the most confusing holiday at BCDC? Father’s Day!
Want free food, housing, clothes, cellphones, drugs and sex? Get incarcerated in Baltimore and join the Black Guerrilla Family.
This is O’Malley’s worst nightmare. For years he’s been complaining that the hit HBO TV series “The Wire” unfairly depicts Baltimore’s illicit drug trade and sleazy politicians. Now, this is “The Wire” come true.
Compounding the problem, when the scandal broke O’Malley was thousands of miles away in Israel padding his foreign relations resume and sucking up to Jewish voters and donors.
He’s also made himself a target by creating the perception that his presidential ambitions outweigh his gubernatorial concerns. When you thrust yourself into the national limelight by haunting Sunday TV talk shows, picking fights with GOP governors and campaigning around the nation, you can’t duck a major scandal back home.
But that’s exactly what he’s trying to do. The press corps couldn’t wait for O’Malley, the master of “don’t believe your eyes, believe me” spin, to peddle his version of the story. And he didn’t disappoint.
At his Tuesday press conference he tried passing off the jail scandal as “a very positive development” because “there will now be more correctional officers as well as citizens that come forward because they see that we can actually be effective in coordinating together to attack a problem.” (Have you ever noticed how O’Malley’s eyes squint when he’s lying?)
Using O’Malley’s logic, other “very positive developments” include the Titanic because it proved that ships aren’t unsinkable after all and 9/11 because it alerted us to terrorism.
I can’t wait for O’Malley’s first presidential TV ad, “My record of very positive developments include slots, gay marriage, death penalty repeal, gun control and the Black Guerrilla Family.”
O’Malley also tried spreading the blame: “We’re all responsible and we’re all responsible for cleaning it up,” although most state politicians are frantically distancing themselves from the scandal. And he even hinted that he inherited the problem from Bob Ehrlich, who left office seven years ago.
The governor must have been in a playful mood, too, because he launched this laugher: “We have a zero tolerance policy toward corruption of any kind.”
Right, except the feds found a “pervasive nature of prison corruption in Baltimore City’s Detention Centers,” including an unwritten deal between top brass and the gangs to let the BGF keep order in the jail.
“The inmates literally took over ‘the Asylum’ and the detention centers became a safe haven for the BGF,” said the feds.
FBI wiretaps picked up White, the BGF leader explaining, “This is my jail. You understand that? I’m dead serious … I make every final call in this jail and nothing go (sic) past me, everything come (sic) to me.”
Zero tolerance? In 2006 an honest, by-the-book guard was murdered by inmates at Jessup, and in 2009 the BGF was busted at the Baltimore prison for racketeering, weapons and drugs.
Thanks to corrupt prison officials, the inmates were enjoying “salmon, shrimp and crab imperial, sipped Grey Goose vodka and enjoyed cigars.” And, this week, O’Malley and the Board of Public Works, in order to avoid a lawsuit, paid a former inmate $40,000 because he was beaten by fellow inmates for refusing to sell drugs in prison.
If O’Malley was serious about zero tolerance he wouldn’t have signed the 2010 “Corrections Officers’ Bill of Rights,” another sop to labor unions that, according to the feds, undermines discipline and accountability, giving guards freedom to conspire with inmates without punishment.
Corrupt guards are protected by corrupt union rules passed by corrupt politicians. Or as the feds put it, “procedures and personnel … were completely inadequate to prevent smuggling” and there was “no effective punishment” for guards suspected of corruption.
Instead of being fired, corrupt guards are transferred to other posts.
“It ain’t nothing new,” said one female guard in an FBI wiretap. “I get moved over there basically because I’m dirty.”
Sadly, when the feds finally raided the BGF’s jail cells in February, they had to use handpicked guards from prisons outside Baltimore because Baltimore guards couldn’t be trusted.
As he runs for the White House, candidate O’Malley will be hard pressed to explain how all this could happen right under his nose.
Blair Lee is CEO of the Lee Development Group in Silver Spring and a regular commentator for WBAL radio. His column appears Fridays in the Business Gazette. His past columns are available at www.gazette.net/blairlee. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.