Rascovar: Corrections Secretary Maynard is Underrated

By Barry Rascovar, for MarylandReporter.com

Retiring Maryland Corrections Secretary Gary Maynard.
Retiring Maryland Corrections Secretary Gary Maynard.
No good deed goes unpunished, they say. Retiring Maryland Corrections Secretary Gary Maynard can attest to that.

Had Maynard not turned to the FBI for help in investigating gang smuggling and complicity by prison guards at the Baltimore Detention Center, he’d be retiring with plaudits all around for his seven-year performance.

Instead, Maynard walks away with a mixed record.

Undone by the FBI

In 2011, Maynard’s department uncovered massive drug smuggling, sex and gang activity at the city jail that involved guards.

He could have arrested a few people at that time, called a press conference so the governor could gloat about the crackdown and ignored the deeper, more troubling problem — an out-of-control Detention Center filled with guards who were aiding inmate gang members.

But that’s not Maynard’s style.

A veteran prison manager — and retired brigadier general — insisted on getting to the bottom of this problem. So he reached out to the FBI for assistance.

He got help, all right. What he didn’t expect was grandstanding.

The FBI held a flashy press conference to detail the outrageous criminal activity the bureau had uncovered. But it failed to stress that Maynard had requested the two-year investigation. Instead, Maynard became the fall guy.

Maynard’s Response

Any scandal involving gangs, guards, drugs and sex is going to gain national prominence. Maynard was portrayed, unfairly, as the inept corrections chief who countenanced such behavior.

Unlike many public officials who run for cover during a crisis, Maynard accepted full responsibility — even though his hands had been tied during the two-year FBI probe.

He responded not by resigning or picking a fight with the FBI — though he had cause — but by moving his office to the Detention Center, continuing the investigation and indictments and shaking up the city jail’s management and operating procedures.

It’s now a safer place, one that is run firmly by the state, not the inmates.

Maynard laid the groundwork for more sweeping city jail changes in the years ahead.

These include gradually replacing the Civil War era facility – as his department suggested last summer and a special commission recommended last week.

Lost in the sensational publicity: Maynard’s substantial achievements in Maryland.

What he accomplished

Not only did he shut down the notoriously dangerous and antiquated House of Correction in Jessup, Maynard did so in a hurry, moving 842 hardened criminals to new locations without advanced notice.

He’s made state prisons less dangerous for those working there. Serious assaults are down 60 percent.

Perhaps best of all, he found ways to make a dent in the number of repeat offenders, cutting the state’s recidivism by nearly 20 percent.

Prisons and rehabilitation get little attention, or funding, from elected officials until there’s an embarrassing incident. Then they react. That’s what is happening this time.

What will lawmakers do?

Here’s a prediction: Reforms involving the city jail will sail through the legislature this coming year. Campaigning incumbents want to brag about their efforts to restore law and order at the Detention Center.

Maynard leaves behind a better managed Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services and safer prisons holding fewer repeat inmates.

In departing, he deserved more praise for his overall record. But as Shakespeare put it, “the good is oft interred with their bones.”

For more commentary by Barry Rascovar, visit http://www.politicalmaryland.com.

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