Driving along the expressway leaving Baltimore recently, I observed an electronic billboard alerting drivers to the identity of one of the current “most wanted” fugitives in the area.
As I was moving toward the billboard, the advertisement changed to notify us of the upcoming “Gun and Knife Show” at the state fair grounds north of the city.
Juxtaposed against this irony is the breaking story of corruption endemic to the Baltimore City Detention Center. While the City Jail is formally operated by the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, in actuality it is apparently run by the boss of a local gang.
The details of this corruption have been widely reported. In brief, the gang was able to suborn the collaboration of at least 13 correctional officers, four of whom were impregnated by the gangleader, who has been incarcerated for several years awaiting trial.
The corrupted officers were able to bring in various materials needed by gang members in continuing their operations on the outside. The boss allegedly was asserting his control over day to day operations in the jail.
One hopes that state corrections leaders will re-assert control over the operation of the jail. One hopes that all involved will be found out and receive appropriate sanctions.
But personally, I am far from sanguine about this.
Having been involved in various parts of the criminal justice system in many parts of Maryland, including Baltimore, over the past two decades, it is clear that the justice system in Baltimore is very, very broken.
Citizens in the city do not trust the police. Because of this, the jury pool is anything but objective, rendering effective prosecution difficult. And now we learn that the officers sworn to manage inmates and detainees in our jail were not only permitting criminal activity to continue but were affirmatively abetting that activity.
Clearly, a top-down purge is needed, and it is unfortunate that some good officers will be caught in this net. Fortunately, this purge has begun.
I wonder, though, about a society that permits the irony of a billboard simulcasting the need to capture most wanted criminals alongside a celebration of the weapons that allow those criminals to do their deeds.
It strikes me that we have gotten what we have asked for.
Erik Roskes, a regular blogger for The Crime Report, is a forensic psychiatrist and serves on the teaching faculty in the Psychiatry Department at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. The opinions expressed are those of the author only, and do not represent those of any of Dr. Roskes' employers or consultees, including the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. He welcomes readers' comments. Dr. Roskes' website is http://mysite.verizon.net/eroskes.