December 15, 2013

Rascovar column: Corrections Secretary Maynard is underrated

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By Barry Rascovar

For MarylandReporter.com

Public Safety Secretary Gary Maynard

Public Safety Secretary Gary Maynard

No good deed goes unpunished, they say. Retiring Maryland Corrections Secretary Gary Maynard can attest to that.

Had Maynard not turned to the FBI for help in investigating gang smuggling and complicity by prison guards at the Baltimore Detention Center, he’d be retiring with plaudits all around for his seven-year performance.

Instead, Maynard walks away with a mixed record.

Undone by the FBI

In 2011, Maynard’s department uncovered massive drug smuggling, sex and gang activity at the city jail that involved guards.

He could have arrested a few people at that time, called a press conference so the governor could gloat about the crackdown and ignored the deeper, more troubling problem — an out-of-control Detention Center filled with guards who were aiding inmate gang members.

But that’s not Maynard’s style.

A veteran prison  manager — and retired brigadier general —  insisted on getting to the bottom of this problem. So he reached out to the FBI for assistance.

He got help, all right. What he didn’t expect was grandstanding.

The FBI held a flashy press conference to detail the outrageous criminal activity the bureau had uncovered. But it failed to stress that Maynard had requested the two-year investigation. Instead, Maynard became the fall guy.

Maynard’s Response

Detention-centerAny scandal involving gangs, guards, drugs and sex is going to gain national prominence. Maynard was portrayed, unfairly, as the inept corrections chief who countenanced such behavior.

Unlike many public officials who run for cover during a crisis, Maynard accepted full responsibility — even though his hands had been tied during the two-year FBI probe.

He responded not by resigning or picking a fight with the FBI — though

  • Baltimore City Detention Center

he had cause — but by moving his office to the Detention Center, continuing the investigation and indictments and shaking up the city jail’s management and operating procedures.

It’s now a safer place, one that is run firmly by the state, not the inmates.

Maynard laid the groundwork for more sweeping city jail changes in the years ahead.

These include gradually replacing the Civil War era facility — as his department suggested last summer and a special commission recommended last week.

Lost in the sensational publicity: Maynard’s substantial achievements in Maryland.

What he accomplished

Not only did he shut down the notoriously dangerous and antiquated House of Correction in Jessup, Maynard did so in a hurry, moving 842 hardened criminals to new locations without advanced notice.

He’s made state prisons less dangerous for those working there. Serious assaults are down 60 percent.

Perhaps best of all, he found ways to make a dent in the number of repeat offenders, cutting the state’s recidivism by nearly 20 percent.

Prisons and rehabilitation get little attention, or funding, from elected officials until there’s an embarrassing incident. Then they react. That’s what is happening this time.

What will lawmakers do?

Here’s a prediction: Reforms involving the city jail will sail through the legislature this coming year. Campaigning incumbents want to brag about their efforts to restore law and order at the Detention Center.

Maynard leaves behind a better managed Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services and safer prisons holding fewer repeat inmates.

In departing, he deserved more praise for his overall record. But as Shakespeare put it, “the good is oft interred with their bones.”

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  • md observer

    Maynard deserves an A+ for moving his office into the detention center, and bringing the hurt to where it belonged. However, his idea to bring in the FBI was a tacit admission either that the State of MD had inadequate resources to perform an adequate, timely investigation, or MD investigative resources (State Police mostly) were not fully independent of the detention center’s corruption.

    Bringing in the FBI was the easy way out. MD laws were directly violated. So it was primarily MD taxpayer responsibility to investigate and prosecute. The perpetrators should have been prosecuted in MD courts where they would meet their justice in the State prison system.

  • abby_adams

    So where was O’Malley during all this? Letting the other guy take the fall? Predictable. Only around when the kudos are being passed out or the press is on hand to promote his presidential ambitions.

  • cwals99

    Let’s see, the problems at this jail had two major contributing factors: Too few staff and too little oversight. Add to that too low of wages and you see the problem. Who caused all those conditions? Maynard. Doing so was criminal in and of itself because he left these prison employees in danger every single day through negligent work conditions. Creating that condition in a jail with some of the toughest jail inmates is incredible. One knows everyone in the chain of command knew how bad things were because if they didn’t they obviously were not doing their job.

    So, what happens in Maryland when an official absolutely fails at the job given him? Move him to another job in the same system. See why Maryland’s public sector is so dysfunctional? No doubt this happens because Maynard knows the dirt on all the other pols and must be protected from JUSTICE.