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Joint hearing planned on state correctional facilities

General Assembly leaders will hold a joint hearing in June to discuss problems at Maryland’s correctional facilities, the latest fallout from a sordid jail scandal alleged to revolve around drugs, sex and money in Baltimore.

The Legislative Policy Committee — comprised of every standing committee chair and party leader in the Senate and House of Delegates — will seek answers to how an alleged smuggling operation at the Baltimore City Detention Center was allowed to go on. A final date for the briefing is still being determined.

Last week, 25 people — including 13 corrections officers — were indicted following a federal investigation that found evidence of a drug smuggling operation, apparently led by a gang member that officials said also impregnated four correctional officers. Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services Secretary Gary D. Maynard has come under fire since then, but Gov. Martin O’Malley has pledged his full support of the secretary.

Sometime after next month’s briefing, House Speaker Michael E. Busch and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. intend to name a task force to identify policy and budget changes that could be worked on during the 2014 legislative session, according to a joint statement.

“Secretary Maynard did the right thing by forming the Maryland Prison Gang Task Force and initiating the federal investigation, but it is the responsibility of the legislature to ask the tough questions about what is working and what is not working in our prison system,” Busch said in the statement. “We need to take a broader look at the policies governing the correctional system, including hiring, training and disciplinary processes and efforts to combat gang violence.”

Miller said lawmakers needed to immediately and “seriously evaluate what can be done to combat this kind of insidious criminal activity in the state’s correctional system.”