A lawsuit filed against a Maryland correctional facility has been transferred to federal court after the case was determined to include alleged hate crimes towards correctional officers of color and those who may have immigrated to the United States.
The complaint against the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (DPSCS) was initially filed in the Baltimore City Circuit Court on July 21, the plaintiffs’ attorney, Thomas Eiler, told The Daily Beast Friday.
However, the case was removed “because of the numerous federal causes of action included in the Complaint,” Eiler wrote in an email.
According to the federal lawsuit filed Oct. 1src, five correctional officers claimed they were subjected to racist and xenophobic behavior at the Maryland Correctional Training Center in Hagerstown from their white colleagues who allegedly were members of an all-white group called the “4src West Gang.”
About 25 white correctional officers are suspected of being members of the gang and could be identified by appropriating masonic symbols and swastika tattoos. Correctional officers of color say they were subjected to racial slurs, derogatory name-calling, as well as harsher penalties than their white colleagues.
“The racial taunts are not merely occasional but insidious, serving as a relentless soundtrack to their workday,” the lawsuit says. “There are brazen taunts when white officers mimic monkey noises, over the intercom and directly at their Black colleagues. This conduct is not covert or hushed; it is flamboyantly displayed and bragged about, consequence-free, spanning all ranks within the institution.”
Systemically, officers of color or those who are immigrants said they also experienced a lack of overtime opportunities, were excluded from training for upward mobility, and denied promotions by members of the group who also happened to include their superiors.
“Plaintiffs assert that the preferential treatment of the 4src West Defendants is blatant and contributes to a severe and pervasive hostile work environment for [people of color], immigrants, and others who do not and cannot belong to the group,” the lawsuit states.
The suit also claims that alleged victims who complained about discrimination were retaliated against, threatened with termination, and coerced to quit.
In turn, officers who filed the suit want financial compensation to cover loss of wages and for medical expenses due to pain and suffering and emotional distress.
A department spokesperson told The Maryland Daily Record that DPSCS was “aware of the complaints alleged in [the] suit and is investigating the serious claims.”
“The Department cannot comment further on pending litigation at this time,” the spokesperson said.