By Van Smith
Published by City Paper, Feb. 24, 2010
Awareness of suspected corruption among Baltimore’s prison guards grew on early Sunday morning, with the arrest of 20-year-old correctional officer Shanika Johnson after she was searched as she entered the Baltimore City Detention Center (BCDC).
According to court records in the case, when Johnson attempted to enter the facility, her “bag was searched by correctional officer Takesia Diggs,” who “recovered approximately (1) ounce of suspected marijuana. She also recovered (2) cellular telephones.” A detective then interviewed Johnson, who “waived her Miranda rights and stated that she was bringing the marijuana and cell phones in to give to an inmate,” the records continue. “She refused to name the inmate. She also advised that the inmate was paying her $1000.00” for smuggling the goods. Johnson was released on $35,000 bail the same day. A trial in the case is scheduled for March 23.
Since last April, when three correctional officers were indicted in federal court (and have since pleaded guilty) as part of a prison-gang conspiracy involving Maryland leaders of the Black Guerilla Family, the issue of prison-guard integrity has arisen repeatedly in public. In October 2009, documents made public as a result of an inmate’s federal lawsuit against prison guard Antonia Allison named 16 correctional officers who had been suspected of gang ties. And in November 2009, correctional officer Lynae Chapman was indicted in state court for misconduct in connection with procuring a cellphone for a detained murder suspect who fathered her unborn child; in December, Chapman’s attempt to plead guilty in the case was rejected by a judge.
Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services spokesman Mark Vernarelli declined to comment on the Johnson case, though he confirmed Johnson’s employment at the BCDC and said she’d been hired in May 2008. Since then, court records show, Johnson was charged with second-degree assault last March after an argument at her home on the 6800 block of McClean Boulevard over too-loud music escalated into pushing and hair-pulling. Both Johnson and Sonja White, the other person involved, were arrested, and in both cases, the charges were placed on the inactive docket.
Johnson has no criminal-defense attorney in the case, according to court records, and City Paper could not find a way to contact her for comment.