Maryland moves last inmates from decrepit Baltimore jail

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Posted: Aug 25, 2015 7:49 PM
Maryland moves last inmates from decrepit Baltimore jail

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Maryland moved the last inmates out of the dangerously decrepit men's section of the Baltimore City Detention Center on Tuesday, state officials said, completing the closure of the notorious facility.

The jail pre-dates modern penal facility standards, with some of its walls dating to the 19th century. It has been known for its hazardous conditions, including blind corners and dark corridors. It also has been the target of reform attempts for decades.

"The final closure of this detention center removes a stain on the reputation of our state and Maryland's correctional system," Hogan said in a statement announcing the removal of all detainees by 5 p.m. Tuesday. "For years, corruption, criminal activity, and deplorable conditions have plagued this facility, but that ends today."

In June, the American Civil Liberties Union and Public Justice Center asked a federal judge to reopen a lawsuit against the state over what they said were conditions so substandard it brings "shame to this city." Attorneys cited moldy showers and cells infested with mice and cockroaches. They also said medical care was poor or nonexistent.

Hogan, a Republican, announced plans July 30 to close the state-run jail, where a sweeping federal indictment in 2013 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.

Forty of the 44 defendants charged in the racketeering conspiracy were convicted, including 24 correctional officers. Thirty-five defendants pleaded guilty; eight defendants went to trial and one defendant died. White pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

Hogan said the closure would save the state $10 million to $15 million annually. Soon after the announcement, officials began moving about 1,100 inmates and detainees to other Baltimore-area detention centers, keeping them in proximity to local courts.

Maryland lawmakers say they have yet to be informed where exactly the inmates and detainees have been moved, and they have questions about the administration's long-term plans to house the detainees and inmates.

"In fairness to the administration, we'll give them their opportunity to complete the job, and then we'll expect them to be forthright with their presentation to the appropriate committees," House Speaker Michael Busch, D-Anne Arundel, said.

The state has created a customer service phone line to help family members of detainees locate their relatives.