In a career that's spanned more than four decades in four states, Gary D. Maynard has dealt with inmate sex scandals, prison riots, suicides and shrinking public safety budgets.
Last week, the Maryland corrections secretary faced a bank of TV cameras and the latest crisis in his long career. This one would make national news and prompt an outcry from across the state: Gang members allegedly built a wide-ranging criminal enterprise in the Baltimore City Detention Center, dealing drugs and impregnating correctional officers.
As he has several times in his career, Maynard took the blame, declaring: "It's totally on me."
Maynard, who turns 70 on Wednesday, pledged to stay in the job until he rights the situation, while Gov. Martin O'Malley and several state lawmakers have expressed confidence in his ability to tamp down corruption.
"If anybody thinks that I would resign and leave this mess, then they don't really know me," Maynard said in an interview. "I may fix this, and I may put a little bow on it and say, 'This is one of the better running jails in the country.' And maybe in a year or two, walk away from it."
Maynard has confronted scandal before — in Maryland, and in previous jobs. And he has won praise for hands-on responses. To demonstrate his commitment to this latest task, Maynard has moved his office into the jail from the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services headquarters in Towson and has undertaken a review of security procedures and polygraphs of personnel, starting this weekend.
But he also has critics who have expressed consternation about a number of problems in state correctional facilities, including a recent spike in the number of prisoner deaths and repeated problems with gangs. Some have questioned whether the steps Maynard has outlined are enough.
"Secretary Maynard is more of a statewide person anyway, and I do not doubt that once he learns an inner-city or urban-type system that he'll be good at managing it, but at this point, he may not have the prerequisite skills to manage it," said Del. Curt Anderson, a Baltimore Democrat who sits on the House Judiciary Committee that plans to hold hearings next month.
According to a federal indictment, which pointed out lapses in oversight of the jail, more than two dozen inmates and correctional officers worked together to smuggle drugs and other contraband, including cellphones, into the facility.
Maynard said taking responsibility gives him the strongest mandate to fix issues at the jail, which is run by the state. If he blamed others — corrections officers, the union, lawmakers, for example — then he'd be stuck waiting for them to fix things.
"I had a lot of people telling me not so say that," he said, referring to his taking the blame. "I say, 'You don't understand what you have to do to get things done.'"
If anyone can set things straight at the jail, it's Maynard, said A.T. Wall, president of the Association of State Correctional Administrators. The association gave Maynard its top award last year, honoring the member "who represents the best in the profession," said Wall, who is also the corrections director for Rhode Island.
"Gary's a hands-on guy," Wall said. "He is a man who accepts responsibility and does not shirk his duties."
"Corrections is a field in which there's always a lot going on," Wall said. "Crises arise regularly and someone as experienced as Gary has seen and dealt with almost all of them — everything from serious fiscal issues to hostage-takings to institutional disorder and dealing with difficult inmates."
David Rocah, staff attorney for the Maryland chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, was skeptical that what Maynard has proposed so far would be sufficient.
"They're all good steps. I don't think that any of them are sufficient steps, in and of themselves," Rocah said.
As long as O'Malley still wants him in the job, and as long as his wife is supportive, Maynard plans to stay. "I will not leave until it's fixed," he said.
O'Malley, who was traveling overseas last week on a trade mission, said in a statement that Maynard has briefed him about the indictment and situation at the jail. The governor also emphasized that the indicted officers do not represent the majority of corrections staff "who do their difficult jobs every day with integrity."
The governor has praised Maynard in the past. In a recent meeting with The Baltimore Sun's editorial board, before the indictment, he called the secretary "awesome."
"Secretary Maynard has taken swift, immediate action," O'Malley said in the statement. "Secretary Maynard has my full confidence and support."
O'Malley brought Maynard to Maryland from Iowa soon after he took office in 2007. The two quickly moved to close the aging House of Correction in Jessup, where a correctional officer had been killed.
The challenge of dealing with a notoriously dangerous prison was attractive to Maynard, who was running Iowa's relatively calm prisons at the time.
"My history has led me into those kind of situations, away from the mundane and into the more challenging," Maynard said.
Maynard, who makes an annual salary of more than $165,000, has spent his entire adult life in corrections. A long-standing interest in prisons was cemented in college when his sociology class toured a prison in Oklahoma. He was particularly impressed with the warden, who had a respectful rapport with inmates and officers.
"I said I want to do that. I want that job some day," he recalled.
Maynard went to work as a prison psychologist in 1970 and moved into prison administration by 1974. He has run prisons and state correctional systems in Oklahoma, South Carolina and Iowa.
His said his toughest test was in the mid-1980s, when he was an assistant state corrections director and had to take over a troubled state penitentiary in Oklahoma.
In an effort to re-establish order, he removed popular inmates from their prison jobs, sparking an uprising. The inmates stabbed several officers and took seven employees hostages for hours before Maynard negotiated an end to the standoff.
"That was the hardest on my family, hardest on me personally. I learned so much," he said, citing "that expression of 'things that don't kill you make you stronger.'"
"I became a better leader for it, I became stronger for it. The institution became stronger for it."
Former South Carolina Gov. Jim Hodges still holds Maynard in high regard.
"Gary is a top-flight corrections professional," said Hodges, who hired Maynard away from Oklahoma in 2001 to lead his state's troubled prison system.
Before Maynard took over, the South Carolina system had been rocked by a scandal involving corrections officers allegedly having sex with inmates — including Susan Smith, who infamously was convicted of drowning her children. Officers were also accused of having sex with inmates in the governor's mansion.
Hodges said he needed an outsider to reform the system — at time when budgets were tight.
"He came in and managed a difficult situation in our corrections system," Hodges said. "He could manage the budget, he could motivate employees and he could keep the prisons safe."
Hodges ended up recommending Maynard for his next job as director of the Iowa Department of Corrections, as well as his current job in Maryland.
Hodges said he's not surprised that Maynard isn't shying away from responsibility for the Baltimore City Detention Center and what led to the Black Guerrilla Family's activities.
"That's not in his DNA. He's very forthright and straightforward. What you see is what you get with Gary," he said.
When Maynard left Iowa for Maryland in 2007, members of Iowa's Board of Corrections were disappointed, recalled Arthur Neu, a member of the board at the time. Neu, an attorney, said Maynard was diligent in responding to a series of suicides among mentally ill inmates and dealing with the replacement of an aging maximum security prison.
"I never had a feeling that he was hiding anything from us," Neu said.
Baltimore Sun reporter Kevin Rector and researcher Paul McCardell contributed to this article.
Gary D. Maynard
Position: Secretary of public safety and correctional services
Past jobs: Director, Iowa Department of Corrections, 2003-2007; Director, South Carolina Department of Corrections, 2001-2003; various positions in state and federal institutions in Oklahoma as counselor, warden and administrator, 1970s through 1990s. Retired from Oklahoma Army National Guard with rank of brigadier general.
Education: B.A. in sociology, East Central State College; M.S. in rehabilitation counseling, Oklahoma State University
Age: Turns 70 on Wednesday
Personal: Married with one grown son. Lives in Towson. Enjoys golf, working in the yard and traveling.