Baltimore City Jail & Gang Corruption

Baltimore City Jail & Gang Corruption

Prison and Jail Corruption

Problem Background

One of the most important areas of public safety is the proper administration of correctional facilities. Corrections facilities have a long history of corruption dating back to the very first facilities opened in the US. Corruption in prisons has the negative impact of endangering the public by allowing prisoners to operate without punishment and thereby without rehabilitation. In some instances, corruption is so blatant and pervasive that the inmates are able to impact the lives of innocent people on the outside. Typically, the most pervasive form of corruption is internal corruption. This has many forms within the correctional facility but in general it is the collusion of prison workers with prisoners in which the workers receive some form of benefit from the prisoner or his affiliations on the outside. In order to stop this problem, policies must be implemented which deter these actions or eliminate the possibility of corruption.

The Warden as Leader

In 2011, the newly designated warden of Baltimore City Jail, Wendell “Pete” France, faced an insurmountable task of cleaning up the corruption in the jail. The problem was so pervasive that all attempts to correct behavior and stop corruption failed and the new warden was forced to call the FBI. More than three quarters of the City Jail officers were involved in contraband smuggling. The situation in City Jail was unique and presents a leadership issue due to the fact that the officers involved in the corruption affiliations with many inmates, in particular with a local Baltimore gang named the “Black Guerrilla Family”.

Part of the problem in this situation is the fact that many of the workers in Baltimore’s City Jail came from the same neighborhoods as the gangs in the jail. While this is not the same as being affiliated with a gang, it does draw into question the past leadership of the jail with regard to depth of background check and hiring practices for correctional officers. In this situation, the relationships between officers and inmates spiraled out of control in a lack of ethical leadership.

An understanding of ethics is important to the management process because it provides the connection between proper behavior and the institutions functioning. The ethics of an organization serves more than just a window dressing and actually helps guide and focus the mission by removing unwanted behaviors. The importance of this connection cannot be overstated in the grim example of City Jail which devolved the institution to the point of no return.

City Jail leadership lacked ethical strength long before Wendell France took command, which explains the incredible resistance he encountered enforcing basic policies when assuming control of the jail,

…detainees at the Baltimore City jail were wearing street clothes, despite rules forbidding casual attire. Previous administrations did not enforce the regulation. But after Wendell M. “Pete” France took over as commissioner of pretrial detention for Maryland’s prison system in January, he ordered everyone at the state-run detention center and Central Booking to don jumpsuits. The inmates protested, and last month they began setting small fires in trash cans that soon numbered a dozen. France ordered a lockdown of the city jail — which holds about 4,500 arrestees awaiting trial — prohibiting visits and limiting recreation time as correctional officers conducted a cell-by-cell search (Hermann, 2010).

Despite these measures, corrections officers and inmates resisted change. Having become use to operating in an unethical manner, the jail could not alter its patterns. This resistance forced Federal involvement in order to arrest and remove the unethical elements from the jail because of the serious public safety hazard prisoners posed even from within the jail.


Ermann, M. D. (2002). Corporate and Governmental Practices. New York, NY: Random.

Hermann, P. (2010, April 8). Hard-line lawman making waves at city jail. Baltimore Sun.

By groupuscule — Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

Article Updated: 11/11/2021


Triola Vincent. Sun, Mar 14, 2021. Baltimore City Jail & Gang Corruption Retrieved from

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