Feds break up Maryland prison smuggling ring of drugs, phones, and sex  

Maryland Correctional Institute Jessup (Image Source: DPSCS Maryland)

At least 20 people have been indicted by a federal grand jury for what is being called “Truly troubling levels of corruption” at a Maryland prison. US Atty. Robert K. Hur detailed a huge smuggling ring of drugs, porn, illegal cell phones, and sex, facilitated by guards at the Maryland Correctional Institute Jessup.

As a result of a wiretap and prison informant, a 2-year investigation was initiated that a startling system of prisoner abuse and criminal network that stretched outside the prison walls. Prisoners were able to buy drugs smuggled inside and then used guard supplied cell phones to make electronic payment for the narcotics with PayPal and Western Union.

Federal prosecutors stated that fentanyl, ecstasy, synthetic marijuana, prescription pills, alcohol, and tobacco were hidden in the clothing, hair and body cavities of guards and then distributed to their inmate connections. The guards even smuggled in flash drives loaded with porn for prisoners willing to pay.

According to charging documents, one supervisor, identified as Lt. Owen Nesmith, 50, was involved in a particularly deviant activity. Prosecutors allege that Nesmith regularly smuggled in synthetic marijuana, and cell phones to incarcerated members of the Bloods street gang. The gang would repay Nesmith by sending him male prisoners to “spend time with.” He is now accused of sexually assaulting at least three prisoners at the facility.

Maryland Correctional Institute Jessup holds about 1,100 male prisoners and is considered a medium security facility. A staff of about 300 prison guards and civilian employees run the grounds. In total, six prison-system employees, seven inmates, and six civilian accomplices face federal racketeering charges.

Mo Barnes
Mo Barnes

Maurice "Mo" Barnes is a graduate of Morehouse College and Political Scientist based in Atlanta. Mo is also a Blues musician. He has been writing for Rolling Out since 2014. Whether it means walking through a bloody police shooting to help a family find justice or showing the multifaceted talent of the Black Diaspora I write the news.