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Task Force Meets To Discuss State Of Maryland Jails

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Drugs, illegal mobile phones and sex behind bars. Gangs operating in Maryland jails. Now, a commission demands answers from the man in charge.

Mike Hellgren has more on what State Corrections Secretary, Gary Maynard, is saying.

This is a landmark task force that will tackle a correctional system that's faced some major scandal. They will ultimately shape policy, laws and funding.

Fixing the Baltimore City Detention Center and other Maryland correctional facilities is the focus of this bipartisan group of state lawmakers.

The task force met for the first time Thursday after a federal indictment and scathing audit revealed a city jail out of control: dangerous, dirty and dilapidated with inmates running the place. Allegations that a gang leader impregnated correctional officers and gang members living the high life behind bars.

"It didn't happen overnight. We're not going to fix it overnight," said Del. John Cluster Jr., (R) Baltimore County. "It is happening in other places--Jessup [and] in Western Maryland. So I think we need to expand the investigation to around the state."

The secretary of corrections and governor have been under fire over the problems.

"Much like the airport, but much more intensive than an airport. You will take everything out of your pockets. You take your billfold out, you take your watch. Anything metal," Maynard said.

The secretary laid out a series of reforms, including upgrading cameras, new screening measures and transferring the most dangerous inmates to other facilities.

"We can separate those people. We can keep an eye on them because we know who they are," said Maynard.

He's been cracking down on cell phones, too, which inmates used to carry out crimes, including the killing of witness Carl Lackl. His mom had been pushing for cell signals to be blocked for years, which is finally now being done at the Baltimore City Detention Center.

"Their arrogance is so bad they feel like they don't have to hold anybody responsible. Anybody," said Marge Shipley, victim's mother.

It's a long road to reform, booting out corrupt officers, taking down gangs. And leaders say they're in the driver's seat once again.

"We know who the worst person is in the prison system at any time," said Maynard.

Secretary Maynard also said they're having computers randomly tell them when to search cells and officers.

There are 14 senators and delegates on the task force. They'll continue meeting through December. That's when they will release their recommendations.

New high definition cameras at the Baltimore City Detention Center can record 45 days worth of video.

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