Five Black correctional officers are accusing their white colleagues of running a race-based “gang” at a Hagerstown, Maryland prison.
“This is a small group of people who have exercised a lot of control, to do a lot of people harm,” plaintiffs’ co-counsel Thomas Eiler said.
“This prison had not had very many Black officers until the last few years,” co-counsel Edith Thomas added. “And when our clients were hired, there was a lot of animosity — and there still is a lot of animosity toward them.”
The lawsuit states that the prison officers engaged in “shocking racial discrimination and egregious harassment” and created a “toxic environment where racial slurs and discrimination against persons of color, especially Black officers and African immigrants, occurs not only with impunity, but is encouraged and coordinated by a gang of white officers.”
Black officers were allegedly subjected to racial slurs and taunts, including messages that they were not wanted at the prison and should “Go back to your country.” The lawsuit also claims that the white “gang” of officers engaged in criminal activity with drugs and other contraband being brought into the prison.
“We’ve alleged that there’s a smuggling operation going on as well,” Eiler said. “Our intent is to prosecute a criminal organization that has been operating within the Maryland correctional system.”
The federal class action lawsuit names the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, the warden, the security chief of the Maryland Correctional Training Center, two other prison employees, and 25 “John Does.”
The state prison said it’s investigating the allegations.
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