ACLU, others reach settlement over Baltimore jail conditions

Reuters News
|
Posted: Nov 18, 2015 4:51 PM

By Ian Simpson

(Reuters) - Civil liberties groups and the state of Maryland reached a settlement on Wednesday to overhaul Baltimore's scandal-plagued jail and improve its medical facilities, the Public Justice Center said.

The agreement between the state and the Public Justice Center, Washington lawyer Elizabeth Alexander and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) settles a class-action lawsuit over conditions at the complex of a dozen buildings in downtown Baltimore.

“After years of litigation, the jail will meet its constitutional and ethical responsibilities to those inside its walls,” Debra Gardner, legal director at the Public Justice Center, a prison reform advocacy group, said in a statement.

The ACLU, the Public Justice Center and Alexander contended in a June federal court filing that the Baltimore City Detention Center remained filthy and dangerous to inmates despite a 2009 settlement to improve conditions.

Under the settlement, Maryland must overhaul the jail's health care system and make major improvements, including accommodations for people with disabilities. Progress will be tracked by monitors.

Among the upgrades, the settlement requires that staff set and follow schedules for tracking prisoners' health problems. The jail houses inmates awaiting trial.

Maryland took control of the jail in the 1990s, and in July Governor Larry Hogan ordered the men's section closed. Its 750 inmates were transferred to other facilities.

Gardner said perhaps 1,100 inmates still remained at the complex, which dates from the 1850s. U.S. District Judge Ellen Hollander still has to approve the settlement for it to take effect.

The criminal justice system in Baltimore is under scrutiny following the April death of a black man, Freddie Gray, from injuries suffered in police custody. Gray's death sparked protests and rioting in the city, and six officers have been charged in the case.

In 2013, federal and state authorities announced dozens of

indictments of inmates and guards over alleged corruption

directed by the Black Guerrilla Family gang.

Investigators found that a drug-dealing gang leader had

impregnated four guards while being held there.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by David Gregorio)