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O’Malley wants to re-assess Correctional Officers’ Bill of Rights in light of FBI corruption probe

May 9, 2013

Patrick MoranThe office of Maryland governor Martin O’Malley (D) today issued a statement detailing a seven-point plan to “enhance security and root out corruption” in Maryland’s correctional facilities, in light of last month’s Black Guerrilla Family (BGF) prison gang racketeering indictment that charged 13 Maryland correctional officers (COs) with participating in the gang’s alleged criminal enterprise.

The points are an array of rather obvious steps, including cracking down on cellphones in prison and enhancing correctional security procedures. One point, though, is likely to cause an interesting debate among the state’s movers and shakers, including the public-employees union, AFSCME Maryland (led by president Patrick Moran, pictured standing), that represents COs: “reviewing the procedures of the Correctional Officers’ Bill of Rights (COBR) with an open mind to any amendments that would improve discipline while ensuring due process.”

As City Paper reported this week, the FBI views COBR as “corruption-enabling reform that itself was a product of corruption.” Maryland’s COBR, which AFSCME Maryland easily escorted through the legislative process in 2010 and which affords greater protections to COs accused of misconduct, was criticized by the FBI in court documents in the BGF case as being “ineffective as a deterrent” to CO corruption.

According to Maryland General Assembly records, COBR was propelled to passage in 2010 thanks largely to CO outrage over administrative discipline and criminal prosecution arising from a 2008 inmate-beating incident. That incident is now the subject of a current FBI probe that earlier this year led to federal obstruction-of-justice conspiracy charges being filed against 15 current and former COs and supervisors in Maryland, and the FBI’s court documents in that case refer to a corrupt correctional “culture” of retaliatory inmate beatings and subsequent cover-ups.

In light of this revelation, along with O’Malley’s gingerly phrased suggestion that the new law may benefit from changes, expect COBR to become a legislative hot potato in the months to come.