Corrections officers are not the police, but they are a vital link in the penal system. Like any other job, these civil servants are at risk for the possibility of breaking laws for their own benefit. Not all corrections officers are guilty of wrong doing, and some accused are falsely so. No, the majority of officers are innocent of any inappropriate behavior, but there are some that don’t follow the rules.
One of the rules of prisons is that prisoners are not allowed contraband. This includes cell phones, weapons, drugs, and other items that pose a risk to the prisoner or other inmates. In some cases, corrections officers have smuggled these items into prisoners. The reasons for this behavior are multi-factorial. Some do it for extra money. Some take this risk to curry favor among the prisoners. Some do it for other reasons in maintaining the peace. No matter what the reason, smuggling contraband into prisons is a serious crime with a hefty punishment…and it is now a heftier punishment than before.
Reasons for the New Law
This new bill has come into effect because in 2013, 27 corrections officers were indicted in assisting the Black Guerilla Family gang in running criminal operations from inside the prison. In addition, other forms of contraband have been found among the prisoners, and other Maryland prison workers have been terminated for bringing the contraband into the facility.
Another problem that the bill addresses directly is the smuggling of cell phones. In 2009, 1,658 cell phones were confiscated from prisoners in the Maryland corrections pipeline. While it is true that not all of the phones could be attributed to corrections officers, in many cases, evidence has pointed to the guards as the source of phones. However, in 2014, only 344 cell phones were confiscated. This may be due to stronger laws against corrections officers or an increased screening of potential prison guards.
What the Law Says
The bills that were passed in 2014 are actually three separate laws:
1. The first concerns the smuggling of cellphones, specifically. The fines and jail sentences have increased to nearly double what they were before.
2. The second bill addresses criminal activity within the prison. If a corrections officer is suspected of smuggling drugs, alcohol, or cellphones into the prison, they will be suspended without pay until the matter is investigated.
3. The third bill will allow corrections officer training academies to screen students with lie detectors in an attempt to weed out those who have a criminal past.
Penalties and Fines
In the past, the penalties for smuggling were stiff. They included a maximum of three years in prison and a fine of $1,000. The new bill that has been passed and put into effect for 2014 can include a maximum fine of $3,000 and up to five years in prison.
Of course, the evidence would have to prove that the smuggling took place, and a judge could still decide to assign a lesser sentence for infractions that aren’t as serious. These new penalties are simply the ceiling a judge can use and represent a change in the thinking about corrections officials. More laws are in the pipeline of the state House and Senate that will further reform the prison system and the role of corrections officers.
How We Can Help
If you are a corrections officer accused of smuggling contraband into a prison, we can help you with your criminal offense. Since this is a felony crime, you will need one of our skilled criminal attorneys to assist you in preparing your defense and considering any plea bargains offered. Our team can help to gather evidence in your favor and work to contradict the evidence presented by the prosecutor. The city of Baltimore and the state of Maryland were embarrassed by the scandals involving corrections officers, and this is a direct response to those indictments, so it is unlikely for judges to go easy on any corrections officer.
Remember that your guilt must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, and if the case against you is lacking in hard evidence, you may end up receiving a lesser sentence.
Criminal defense attorneys, such as the team at Blackford and Flohr, LLC, can help you to navigate this situation with the least amount of penalties possible. Contact us for further information if you’ve been accused, are suspended, or have been ordered to appear before the court.