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Panel meets to discuss Baltimore jail contraband

ANNAPOLIS — The head of Maryland’s corrections department told lawmakers on Thursday the department is prepared to keep running the Baltimore city jail, while some lawmakers have questioned whether a state agency responsible for prisons should be running a jail facility that has different needs.

Gary Maynard spoke to a joint panel of lawmakers that is exploring how to prevent another contraband conspiracy on the scale that led to federal indictments of 25 people, including 13 correctional officers. Although seven states operate consolidated jail and prison systems, Maryland is unique in having a local jail managed by the state prison authority.

“I think if we are charged with the operation of the jails in the city, it makes our job a little more difficult, but just that in itself does not make it impossible, so we are standing ready to manage the jails as we are charged to do,” Maynard said.

An audit made public earlier this month noted the differences between prisons and jails. It noted that the facility has not fully transitioned to a local jail operational philosophy.

Sen. Nathaniel McFadden, D-Baltimore, says he believes correctional officers may need to be paid more, so they would be less susceptible to being corrupted by inmates. The average starting salary for a Maryland correctional officer is $36,414.

Maynard noted that nearly all of the correctional officers do a good job already.

“But Mr. Secretary, you’ve got 13 that got caught trying to supplement their salaries in another fashion. That’s 13 that got caught,” McFadden said.

Members of the panel are scheduled to tour the facility July 25, as they prepare to try to address problems at the facility in next year’s legislative session.

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