The way Omar Broadway sees it, Maryland prisons are overrun with gangs, disciplinary rules are ignored, and inmates pass the time playing video games and making wine in their cells. You don’t have to take his word for it, says the Baltimore Sun. He says he’s getting it on film. Broadway, a New Jersey native serving a 12-year sentence for carjacking, has gained notoriety as an amateur documentarian of life behind bars. The choppy footage he captured in a Newark prison was turned into a full-length feature that aired at a prominent film festival and was broadcast on HBO this summer.
The popularity of the recording – a massive breach of security – led officials to transfer Broadway to the Maryland correctional system in 2007. Before long, cameras were rolling again. He says he has “a great deal of footage” depicting living conditions of a typical inmate in Maryland and the “illicit activities” that he says take place in the corrections system, some of it captured on a device so small he could fit it in his mouth. He said gang members are so prevalent that the general prison population resembles gang-only units in New Jersey, and that increases the pressure to join. While cameras are not allowed in prison, Broadway is willing to risk criminal charges because he believes it’s important that the public get an insider’s view of prison life. Others questioned whether his motives are fueled more by self-promotion than a sense of justice. Broadway, 29, has been charged criminally in Maryland after being caught with a recording device in 2009. Maryland, like many states, has been grappling with the problem of illicit devices behind bars, but Broadway’s escapades appear particularly troublesome.