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Maynard to leave helm of Maryland prison agency as proposed reforms unveiled

December 11, 2013

Maynard at ASCAImmediately after April’s unsealing of a federal racketeering indictment against the Black Guerrilla Family (BGF) prison gang and correctional officers (COs) at Baltimore jails run by the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (DPSCS), the department’s chief, Gary Maynard, withstood calls for his head. Now Maynard is throwing in the towel on his own terms, just as the Maryland General Assembly issues reform proposals in response to the ongoing correctional scandal, which bumped up a notch or two with last month’s superceding indictment in the case, bringing the total number of COs charged in the case from 13 to 27.  

Maynard’s tenure as DPSCS chief, which began in January 2007, has been sufficiently celebrated that in 2012 the Association of State Correctional Administrators bestowed him with the Michael Francke Award (left), its highest honor. In doing so, the ASCA noted how, under Maynard’s guidance, DPSCS “has made tremendous strides after some very difficult years,” and credited him for making life safer and more secure “both inside the prisons as well as in the community” while emphasizing “drug treatment, education, and health care as building blocks for inmates’ ultimate success.”

Even before the current BGF scandal unfolded this year, correctional corruption under Maynard had already been a festering public issue, as a prior round of BGF indictments snared other COs in 2009 and 2010, while other cases in state court – including one in which a CO delivered a cell-phone to a jailed defendant in a murder case who was the father of her unborn child, just as discovery in the murder case was set to reveal who cooperated with authorities – emphasized how serious DPSCS’ integrity problems were.

In essence, the cases – including civil cases that unearthed proof that the department for years had been aware of gang-tied COs showed how porous prison walls can be when COs are corrupt, creating serious security concerns both inside the institutions and on the streets. Yet the Maryland General Assembly in 2010, rather than address the well-documented problem with reforms that would firm up DPSCS’ anti-corruption policies, did the opposite, giving COs a “bill of rights” that made it harder to discipline them.

Still, Maynard’s reputation remained untarnished – as it is today among those in positions of oversight. According to the Sun’s coverage of Maynard’s resignation announcement, key Maryland legislators are disappointed he’s choosing to leave just as a reform package is set to be debated for enactment.

The reform recommendations, reported by the Washington Post,  dangle the prospect, over 10 years at a cost of more than a half-billion dollars, of demolishing and replacing the correctional complex in Baltimore that has hosted much of the BGF- and gang-related embarrassments in recent years. Also envisioned are staffing increases, making cell-phone smuggling a felony, expanding the use of cell-phone blocking technology, administering polygraph tests to all new CO hires, moving pre-trial detainees who are deemed the highest security risks to other institutions, and, at all correctional facilities, installing full-body scanners and implementing uniform screening policies for all who enter.

While the quality of Maynard’s leadership has been generally lauded, despite much public evidence of integrity problems, under the surface have been indications that he’s been less than fully attentive to institutional corruption and inmates’ health concerns.

An ongoing federal civil-rights lawsuit brought by inmate Benjamin Davis includes a deposition of Maynard taken in January 2012, the first he’d given in decades. Davis’ claims derive in part from his inability to get adequate healthcare, revealing that in 2008, inmates kept in the segregation unit at the Roxbury Correctional Institute (RCI) in Hagerstown had no access to medical care, despite asking for it, for a six-week period.

Maynard, in the deposition, agreed that such a failure to provide adequate medical care would be a violation of the law and a security risk, since the inmates’ frustrations could lead to disruptive conduct. Yet he said he was “not aware” of anyone being investigated or disciplined over the situation – which he’d only learned about days before the deposition occurred, nearly four years later.

“Probably someone should have taken some action on that,” Maynard conceded, adding that “I don’t know if they would have advised me or not, but at least taken some action.”

Maynard offered no opinion when Davis’ lawyer asked him if it was fair that his client was disciplined for protesting the fact that medical care was being withheld, yet no COs or supervisors got in trouble over the situation.

The deposition also waded into Maynard’s handling of an incident, also in 2008, in which successive groups of COs at RCI serially beat an RCI inmate, Kenneth Davis, in retaliation for the inmate having assaulted one of them. Maynard called this one of “several signature events over the years” of his tenure, saying it “was very bad and we took corrective action,” including the “termination and filing charges against 19 officers” as “a serious message to others working in the prisons that that kind of behavior wouldn’t be tolerated.”

Yet, when asked if any supervisors or administrators were disciplined over the breakdown in oversight that allowed the Kenneth Davis beatings to occur, Maynard said, “I don’t believe any were.”

Today, though, Maynard could not say that’s still the case: several supervisors who were not disciplined by DPSCS over the Kenneth Davis beatings now face federal charges brought this year. They are among the 15 COs charged in a conspiracy to beat Kenneth Davis and engage in a cover-up of the ensuing investigations.  

Part of the art of leadership, especially in a no-good-news environment like corrections, is to manage public perceptions so that a good face is put on a bad situation. Maynard mastered that. It will be interesting to see whether his anticipated successor, Gregg Herschberger – formerly the warden at RCI – does too.