Baltimore Is Shutting Down 'Dystopian' Jail

Md. Gov. Larry Hogan says shutdown won't take more than 'a couple of weeks'
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 31, 2015 8:36 AM CDT
Baltimore Is Shutting Down 'Dystopian' Jail
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan poses at the Baltimore City Detention Center yesterday at the end of a news conference to announce his plan to immediately shut down the jail.   (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Since 1938, Baltimore officials have sought to tear down the Baltimore City Detention Center, a Civil War-era prison described by Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan as the state's "black eye," the Baltimore Sun notes. Now, nearly 80 years later, the prison plagued by dilapidated conditions, gang activity, and drug smuggling is finally getting the heave-ho on Hogan's orders. "The Baltimore City Detention Center is a disgrace, and its conditions are horrendous," Hogan said yesterday. "Ignoring it was irresponsible and one of the biggest failures of leadership in the history of the state of Maryland." And Hogan is disregarding most of the 10-year revamp plan laid out by predecessor Martin O'Malley. Hogan says his shutdown, which will take "a couple of weeks" and save taxpayers up to $15 million a year, will transfer the jail's workers and inmates to other facilities, though details are scarce for security reasons.

The ACLU was recently in court to complain about the center, which it called "a dank and dangerous place, where detainees are confined in dirty cells infested with vermin" and with showers "full of drain flies, black mold, and filth," reports the New York Times, which notes the prison will be demolished. In 2013, dozens of inmates and corrections officers were convicted for enabling the Black Guerrilla Family gang's drug-trafficking and money-laundering scheme, per the Washington Post. "Inmates were literally running this prison," Hogan says per the Times, which notes indictment descriptions of the center "read like cable television scripts about a dystopian prison." But issues remain on the transition. The ACLU's National Prison Project director tells the Sun that "shockingly deficient" conditions still exist in other city jails, while a lawyer who worked on the federal lawsuit worries such a fast move could result in confusion regarding prisoners' medical conditions and meds. (More Baltimore stories.)

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