The massive corruption networks inside U.S. prisons became evident this week after 80 guards, inmates and outsiders were charged in a prison conspiracy to smuggle and sell drugs in Eastern Correctional Institution, the largest prison in Maryland.
The scandal follows an investigation in which prosecutors found that for years prison authorities and outsiders have helped scores of inmates to smuggle narcotics, tobacco, pornography and cellphones into the facility in exchange for money and sex.
The scheme involves 35 inmates, 18 jail guards and 27 outside facilitators who together created a system to sneak the contraband items, passing through security screenings and bringing the merchandise right into inmates cells or at other locations, like laundry rooms and staff bathrooms.
According to Reuters, the nationwide surge in incarceration in recent years has caused a deterioration in the hiring of well-qualified officers to guard the prisoner population.
Official data confirms that despite a slight drop in the number of inmates since a 2008 peak, Justice Department numbers show U.S. prisons held about 1.6 million at the end of 2014, up almost 12 percent in 14 years.
The crackdown at Eastern Correctional dwarfs two other major prison corruption cases brought in Maryland in recent years, at Baltimore's jail in 2013 and at a Baltimore prison in 2009. Those cases showed how the Black Guerrilla Family gang had corrupted prison officers.