In federal prison, ol' Bulldog faces sensual shock

Alleged Black Guerrilla Family leader awaiting trial in U.S. institution

  • Federal authorities charge that Tavon White, an inmate known as "Bulldog," took control of the Black Guerrilla Family gang at the Baltimore City Detention Center soon after his arrival in 2009 on an attempted murder charge. He is seen here in a 2009 mug shot from the Anne Arundel County Police Department.
Federal authorities charge that Tavon White, an inmate known… (Anne Arundel County Police…)
May 18, 2013|Dan Rodricks

If the federal prison that gets Tavon White is anything like the last one I visited, even a charmer such as Bulldog will have a tough time recreating the life of the libertine he had at the Baltimore City Detention Center.

White, a reputed leader of the Black Guerrilla Family prison gang, is accused of attempted murder; he's been on trial twice for that charge since 2009. Both trials ended in hung juries, and that explains why White, or "Bulldog," had enough time at the jail to get four of its correctional officers pregnant, one of them twice, according to recent federal indictments.

(I know: It doesn't necessarily take four years to get four women pregnant. I haven't seen "Little Big Man," with Dustin Hoffman, in many years, but something like that happened in that movie, bringing new meaning to the one-night stand. You can look it up.)

Bulldog also had ample time — and, apparently, the liberty and power — to establish and run a lucrative scheme that employed corrections officers to smuggle drugs, cellphones and other contraband into the jail. He made thousands of dollars in the process.

Of course, that's according to the indictments returned last month, alleging that gangsters and their prison girlfriends had been pretty much running the state-run detention center for a few years. Twenty-five people, including 13 female corrections officers, were charged.

It's a lovely scandal. The case made national headlines, and the details offer all kinds of material for criminologists, corrections officials, sociologists, epidemiologists, and people who like to do pregnancy math.

This was the second time BGF members were accused of a broad corruption scheme inside a state institution during the administration of Gov. Martin O'Malley. In 2009, 24 people, including four corrections officers, were indicted on drugs and weapons charges stemming from an operation inside the Metropolitan Transition Center, the old Penitentiary, also located in Baltimore's Penal Gulch, east of the Fallsway.

According to the 2009 indictment, BGF members were able to dine on salmon and shrimp and sip Grey Goose while directing drug deals, extorting protection money from inmates and arranging attacks on rival gang members. The indictment also alluded to sex in the prison kitchen.

And this was all before White was arrested and sent to the city jail. You'd think that, given what happened at the Metropolitan Transition Center with White's BGF colleagues, the state would have been on guard for Bulldog's potential influence in the jail.

But it wasn't for at least two years that the O'Malley administration asked federal authorities for help at the jail, and that's the cover story the governor and his corrections secretary are sticking with.


Someday, we'll get to the truth: What did the wardens at the jail know about Bulldog's activities and when did they know it, and did they abide some of it — or all of it — to keep peace in a jail they could not manage?

One more question: Was sex part of the deal for peace?

I realize that people measure all kinds of things: diseases, calories, housing starts, monthly rainfall and pollen count. I didn't realize that the federal government measured prison sex. Baltimore, which over the years has ranked shamefully high on some of the worst social indices, can now add this: Our jail is second in the nation when it comes to sexual contact between jail staff and inmates.

That's according to a U.S. Department of Justice study. It says almost 7 percent of inmates at the jail, a majority of whom are men, reported having had sexual contact with a staff member, a majority of whom are women. That's more than three times the national rate.

Another red-letter day for the Queen City of the Patapsco Drainage Basin!

It will be interesting to see what the next prison sex survey says. I mean, with White removed from the jail, prisoner-staff contact is probably going to fall off significantly. Bulldog might have been personally responsible for most of it — I'm just sayin'.

White, meanwhile, is going to have to get used to a new lifestyle.

First the state moved him to the Roxbury Correctional Institution in Hagerstown. His lawyer complained that Bulldog had been left there in a cell "without so much as a Bible to read."

(I bet White prefers the King James version, too, because it has the word "begat" in it a lot. I'm kidding! I'm kidding!)

Then White went further west to the prison in Cumberland, and apparently he didn't like the more restrictive accommodations there, either. Having been inside these places, I can understand why.

But for Bulldog, it now gets even worse.

The plan is to send the fellow to a federal prison until his trials, state and federal, come up. We don't know what White's destination is, but, as I said at the start, if it's anything like the last federal sin-bin I visited — in Edgefield, S.C. — Bulldog is in for a sensual shock: Gray cinder block walls, small windows of wire-mesh glass, constant fluorescent light, and poker-faced guards who do not make nice with the inmates.

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