Blame Union Politics for Baltimore's Jail Scandal

Charles Lane: New law gives guards way too much cover
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted May 7, 2013 12:33 PM CDT

(Newser) – How on earth did things get so bad at the Baltimore City Detention Center that at least 13 female guards allegedly helped gang bangers sell drugs behind bars and even had their kids? At the Washington Post, Charles Lane thinks a good part of the blame lies with a too-powerful guards' union. A few years ago, it used its political muscle to turn the Correctional Officers Bill of Rights into state law. The idea was to protect guards from unfair allegations of abuse. The far bigger result? It's now way too easy for unscrupulous guards to operate without fear of retribution.

Lane notes that an FBI report on the Baltimore scandal singles out the law, stating that "the internal review process set up by COBR is ineffective as a deterrent." He thinks the legislation amounts to a "state surrender of control over its workforce that’s difficult to explain in terms of the public interest—but easy to explain politically." Most guards are honest workers in a tough job, Lane adds. But "neither they nor any other workers who serve the public deserve special influence over state government." Click for Lane's full column. (Read more prison stories.)

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