Corruption Probe Widens as 25 Inmates and Guards are Indicted in Prison Scandal

Mike O'Brien
Posted: 04/29/2013

Prison guards at the troubled Baltimore City Detention Center are this week being forced to take lie detector tests following the indictment last week of 25 people — including 13 staff members — on charges of drug conspiracy, money laundering and racketeering.

The polygraph tests were ordered as the corruption probe widened into the prison gang operation in which inmates virtually controlled the jail.

Related: Correcting the U.S. Prison Crisis: The Experts Weigh In

According to federal law enforcement officials, the defendants conspired with or took bribes from members of the Black Guerilla Family to smuggle drugs, cellphones and other contraband in and out of the Baltimore City Detention Center and other facilities.

Four female corrections officers named in the indictment became pregnant (one of them twice) by the gang’s accused ringleader, 36-year-old inmate Tavon White. All 13 of the indicted officers are female.

The scheme, which began in 2009, was busted open last month after several inspections by the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.

FBI Special Agent Stephen E. Vogt said: "In this case, the inmates literally took over the asylum and the detention centers became safe havens for the BGF.

"Law enforcement should not have to concern itself with criminal subjects who have already been arrested and relegated to detention centers."

In a transcript of an intercepted cellphone call included in the indictment, White implicates himself as the leader of the gang by saying that nothing happens inside the jail without his approval.

He was recorded saying: "This is my jail. You understand that? I’m dead serious….I make every final call in this jail…and nothing go past me, everything come to me….Any of my brothers that deal with anybody, it’s gonna come to me."

The Black Guerilla Family is one of many prison gangs that operate throughout the U.S. At the BCDC it is the dominant gang.

According to the indictment, inmates paid co-conspirators through prepaid cards and even lavished luxury items on guards who were working with the gang.

White allegedly gave corrections officer Jennifer Owens a diamond ring. He bought for cars for her and three other guards he is said to have had sexual relations with: Katera Stevenson, Chania Brooks and Tiffany Lender, Time.com reports.

Related: The Relationship Between Re-Entry and Recidivism

Eight other prison officers are alleged to have smuggled contraband into the prison and tipped off BGF members about law enforcement "shakedowns." They are also accused of standing lookout while the guards had sex with inmates.

The defendants face a maximum of 20 years imprisonment if convicted. One of the accused, Ralph Timmons Jr., was not an inmate but was killed in a robbery just hours before the indictment was served.

Issues such as recidivism and correctional staff training will be discussed in full at IDGA’s Prisons & Correctional Facilities West summit in June. For details, go to www.PrisonsCorrectionalFacilities.com

Mike O'Brien
Posted: 04/29/2013