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More Than 200 Convicted of Corruption at Baltimore Department of Corrections; More Charges Announced

More than 200 guards, prisoners and civilians have been convicted of corruption at the Baltimore Department of Corrections’ prison system over the last four years. In a major new case revealed in December 2019, then-acting Captain Kevin Hickson and 24 other members of the Baltimore Central Regional Tactical Unit were indicted on 236 criminal charges of violent assault, tampering with and destroying evidence, and falsifying official public documents.

The Unit was investigated in 2016 for a series of incidents involving excessive use of force at several facilities. The Unit was responsible for maintaining order at the Metropolitan Transition Center, the Baltimore Pretrial Facility, the state Corrections Department’s Jail Industries Building, and Baltimore City Booking and Intake Facility.

Prosecutors and prison officials worked together and uncovered a criminal enterprise organized to maintain dominance within the prison system. Prosecutors stated that Hickson and his unit employed “illegal excessive use of force through assaults of inmates, use of threats against inmates, and various retaliatory practices to assure complete compliance with [the tactical team’s] authority, which bolsters [its] overall reputation within the territory and suppresses any dissension and discord among the overall prison population.”

Secretary of Corrections Robert Green said the allegations were “disturbing” and commended Governor Larry Hogan for making the issue a priority during his administration. “This case represents our strong effort to root out people who don’t belong in the field of public safety and rehabilitation,” he stated. “This is a disturbing case, but it does not and should not cast a shadow on the commitment and integrity of the exceptional correctional professionals in this department.”

Represented by the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the 25 were charged December 3, 2019, after a year on administrative leave, and some could face up to 150 years in prison. Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Jennifer Friedman stated that she did not believe members of the Unit posed a risk to the public and released all but one pending trial.

Baltimore has previously seen multiple episodes of corruption within its prison system. In a contraband smuggling scheme, prosecutors stated that the Black Guerrilla Family used guards to gain control of the prison. [PLN, April 2015, p. 30.] In 2018 and 2019, more than three dozen guards were charged with smuggling heroin, cellphones, and pornography into the state’s medium-security and maximum-security prisons in Jessup. In September 2019, a former sergeant for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services was sentenced to 15 years for helping run the Crips gang inside state prisons and “enrich” it by helping the gang smuggle in contraband.

Green said this string of corruption cases did not show failure as a whole. “Evidence here today is that we investigated this case, we brought this forward,” he said. “It is a committed effort to be excellent.” Hogan stated, “We are again making clear that we have absolutely no tolerance whatsoever for corruption of any kind in our state prison system or anywhere else is state government.”