Outside the Baltimore City Detention Center (Baltimore Sun photo by Robert…)
I have lots of questions about the Black Guerrilla Family case, starting with this: Was the warden of the Baltimore City Detention Center asked to approve maternity leave for any of the female correctional officers allegedly impregnated by inmate Tavon "Bulldog" White?
I thought it was a pretty good question.
A taxpayer's question.
According to the U.S. attorney's office, White got four of his jailers pregnant. (Do you think these women knew what was going on before the indictment came down? Do you think they all got along and attended Lamaze class together?)
If the indictment is correct, if female prison guards fraternized with an inmate to the point of pregnancy — a couple of them had White's name tattooed on their bodies, the feds say — then I don't want to hear that they asked for paid maternity leave.
Don't tell us that.
Bad enough that White pretty much ran the jail, according to the indictment.
If his baby mamas — excuse me, his alleged baby mamas — had the chutzpah to ask for paid maternity leave, that would add insult to injury.
Ricky Foxwell is listed as acting administrator of the detention center.
So I called over there and asked to speak with him.
"You can't just call over here like this," said the man who answered the phone.
"Why not?" I asked.
"You can't just call here and expect to speak directly to the warden."
OK, then, maybe I should ask for Tavon White? Is he still in charge?
The man, who sounded a little aggravated, told me to call a number for "public relations."
So I called that number and got a voice mail.
The recording provided two other numbers. I tried those and received no response from either.
I wrote an email to Ricky Foxwell, and got no response.
I wrote an email for Shavella Miles, who is listed as chief of security at the detention center. That generated an automatic reply that Miles would out be out of the office until Thursday. The quote under Miles' signature was: "Attitude Reflects Leadership."
So, as always, I ended up with Rick Binetti, who serves as spokesman for the state secretary of public safety and correctional services, whose agency runs the detention center.
The secretary, Gary Maynard, is a standup, if beleaguered, guy who says he takes responsibility for the scandal at La Bastille Tavon.
According to the feds, Tavon White ruled the place while a cabal of corrupt correctional officers and members of White's Black Guerrilla Family enjoyed nearly free rein inside the walls, smuggling drugs and cellphones. White had sex with numerous correctional officers, leaving four of them with child, according to the indictment
I don't know if they got paid maternity leave.
"That's a personnel matter," said Binetti. "Cannot comment."
Ah, yes, the "personnel matter" block.
So then I asked about speaking with Foxwell, and Binetti said it was unfair to bring the acting administrator into this story.
Because he's only been the acting administrator for six months, Binetti said.
Well, then: Who was running the place before Foxwell, during the time covered by the federal indictment?
Binetti gave me the names of the previous wardens.
You have to wonder: Was the gang so powerful and secretive that it could operate freely for so long inside the jail without someone in the administration knowing?
This is where we start to get a little spin on the story.
Maynard's office says the state asked the feds to investigate gangs in Maryland's prisons as long ago as 2008.
Since then, about 40 Black Guerrilla Family members have been convicted of various charges as a result of the state's cooperation with federal prosecutors. In addition, 54 employees have been terminated for fraternization or possession of contraband, according to Maynard's office.
The corrections department has been putting time, money and manpower into rooting out gang activity in prisons across the state.
That's great. Maynard deserves props for that.
But did anyone in authority at the detention center know about White's power and the corruption of guards over the years covered by the indictment, after White was jailed in late 2009?
Those questions deserve some answers.
Maybe this case confirms that the jail is no place for gang members. Maybe they need to be in federal prisons, far from home.
They're either too powerful for the jail or the corrections officers are too weak, too easily corrupted, too poorly screened when they apply for the job.
Are correctional officers underpaid? Yes. Do they have high-stress jobs that few of us are willing to take? Yes.
But being underpaid and underappreciated was never an excuse for taking bribes or lying down with criminals.
Days like this I always feel bad for the hundreds of good cops and corrections officers who do their jobs professionally and with integrity, year after year, upholding their oaths all the way to honorable retirement.