Md. Governor to Close Baltimore Detention Center - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Md. Governor to Close Baltimore Detention Center

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The Baltimore City Detention Center (Photo: AP File) The Baltimore City Detention Center (Photo: AP File)

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP/WBOC)- Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan plans to shut down a Baltimore jail that was the focus of a federal corruption investigation.
    
Hogan on Thursday announced his decision close the Baltimore City Detention Center, which houses hundreds of inmates awaiting trial or serving short sentences.

“For years, Maryland taxpayers were unwittingly underwriting a vast criminal enterprise run by gang members and corrupt public servants," said Governor Hogan. "Ignoring it was irresponsible, and one of the biggest failures in leadership in Maryland history. That is why today, I have instructed Secretary Moyer to immediately shut down the Men's Baltimore Detention Center."
    
The Maryland Division of Correction informed the Maryland branch of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees about the planned closing of the jail at a meeting Thursday morning, union spokesman Jeff Pittman said. The union represents the vast majority of workers at the jail. Pittman said he doesn't know when the jail will close or to which facilities the jobs and inmates will be moved.
    
"The facility was built in 1859, so we're hopeful that moving correctional officers and the people they're charged with overseeing to modern facilities improves safety," Pittman said.
    
The jail grabbed headlines in 2013 after a sweeping federal indictment exposed a sophisticated drug- and cellphone-smuggling ring involving dozens of gang members and correctional officers. The investigation also exposed sexual relations between jailhouse gang leader Tavon White and female guards that left four of them pregnant. In a recorded jailhouse phone call, White boasted, "This is my jail," and "I am the law."
    
Forty of the 44 defendants charged in the racketeering conspiracy have been convicted, including 24 correctional officers. Thirty-five defendants pleaded guilty; eight defendants went to trial and one defendant has died. For his part, White pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 12 years in prison.
    
The ACLU and the Baltimore-based Public Justice Center last month called on a federal judge to reopen a lawsuit against the state of Maryland over what the agencies described as substandard conditions. According to the lawsuit, the  jail's medical and mental health care possibly played a role in the death of seven inmates over the last couple of years. The groups allege inmates suffering from illnesses such as HIV and diabetes were denied life-sustaining prescription medication. The filing also described moldy showers, cells infested with mice and cockroaches, poor ventilation and broken toilets.
    
The agencies also said the state failed to cure systemic problems, despite entering into a 2007 agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice.
    
In response, Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services Secretary Stephen Moyer said he was committed to changes. He noted the state has spent more than $58 million over the past 10 years to improve the safety and security of inmates and staff.
    
David Fathi, director of the ACLU National Prison Project, said closing the facility would be a positive step, though he expressed concern about how hundreds of inmates would be transferred.
    
"Given the jail's history of dysfunction we're concerned about implementation, where the prisoners will go and if that will generate crowding in other facilities," Fathi said. "We've consistently seen problems that when detainees are transferred from one facility to another, the ball often gets dropped with regard to their health care, sometimes with serious consequences."
    
The state has run the jail since 1991 and says it is one of the largest municipal jails in the U.S. Portions of the complex date to 1859.
    

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