ACLU: Squalid conditions at troubled Baltimore jail

Jun 2, 2015, 2:24 PM

BALTIMORE (AP) — Moldy showers and cells are infested with mice and cockroaches, toilets are broken for days and medical care is poor or nonexistent at a notoriously troubled Baltimore city jail, the ACLU and Public Justice Center said in court documents filed Tuesday.

The groups want a federal judge to reopen a lawsuit against the state of Maryland over what they say are conditions so substandard it brings “shame to this city.” Inmates suffering from serious illnesses such as HIV and diabetes are being denied life-sustaining prescription medication and the state has failed to cure well-documented systemic problems within the jail after entering into a 2007 agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice, the court documents said.

“The conditions at the jail are a menace to the Constitution and to the public’s health,” said David Fathi, director of the ACLU’s National Prison Project.

Stephen Moyer, secretary of the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, said he was committed to making changes. The department noted the state has spent more than $58 million to improve the safety and security of inmates and staff over the past 10 years.

“I was 4 years old when this original case was filed in 1964,” Moyer said in a statement. “I am 54 and have only had four months to learn about these perceived issues. I have high expectations of my staff to change the way we do business.”

The Baltimore City Detention Center, known as BCDC, grabbed headlines in 2013 after a sweeping federal indictment exposed a sophisticated drug and cellphone smuggling ring inside the jail involving dozens of gang members and corrections officers, four of whom were impregnated by the gang member who orchestrated the scheme.

The motion argues that widespread failures of the jail’s medical and mental health care have possibly played a role in the death of seven inmates over the last couple of years.

The 103-page motion, which asks the court to set a hearing date, cites multiple cases in which inmates failed to get medical treatment. In one example, a man died after experiencing a three-day delay in renewal of his high blood pressure medication.

The jail “remains a dank and dangerous place, where detainees are confined in dirty cells infested with vermin. The showers are full of drain flies, black mold and filth,” the motion said. The facility holds about 3,000 people on a given day, and the oldest part of the building dates back to 1859.

Inmates with disabilities are assigned to cells that can’t meet their needs and they are often denied health care supplies, ranging from urinary bag and catheter changes to properly working wheelchairs, the documents said.

There were 43 incidents involving detainees making urgent medical visits related to excessive heat because their cells were not properly ventilated, reaching a heat index of 94 degrees in one instance, according to the motion. Over a three-month period, there were 26 instances in which broken toilets were not repaired for three days, far longer than the eight-hour mandate.

“We’re asking the court to reopen the case so we can litigate in court the defendants’ failure to comply with the settlement agreement and failure to provide what’s minimally required under the Constitution, in terms of medical care and safety,” said Debra Gardner, legal director for the Public Justice Center.


Witte reported from Annapolis, Maryland.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

United States News

A hiring sign is displayed at a restaurant in Rolling Meadows, Ill., Monday, Jan. 30, 2023. America...
Associated Press

A surprising burst of US hiring in January: 517,000 jobs

WASHINGTON (AP) — For nearly a year, the Federal Reserve has been on a mission to cool down the job market to help curb the nation’s worst inflation bout in four decades. The job market hasn’t been cooperating. Consider what happened in January: The government said Friday that employers added a sizzling 517,000 jobs last […]
9 hours ago
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)...
Associated Press

$580M headed to 15 Native American tribes to fulfill water rights

Fifteen Native American tribes will get a total of $580 million to fund settlements that ensure access to water that's legally theirs.
1 day ago
(Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)...
Associated Press

Biden’s handwritten notes part of classified documents probe

Some of President Joe Biden's handwritten notes are now a part of a special counsel’s investigation into the handling of classified documents.
1 day ago
Groundhog handler A.J. Dereume holds Punxsutawney Phil, who saw his shadow, predicting a late sprin...
Associated Press

Punxsutawney Phil sees shadow on Groundhog Day, predicting longer winter

Punxsutawney Phil’s “inner circle” summoned him from his tree stump at dawn on Groundhog Day to learn if he has seen his shadow.
1 day ago
A hiring sign is displayed outside of a restaurant in Arlington Heights, Ill., Monday, Jan. 30, 202...
Associated Press

Job market still hot, December openings rise to 11 million

U.S. job openings rose to 11 million in December, delivering a setback to the Federal Reserve's effort to cool a hot job market.
2 days ago
(AP Photo/John Locher)...
Associated Press

Is pumping Mississippi River water to the west a solution or dream?

Amid a major drought in the Western U.S., a proposed solution comes up repeatedly: large-scale river diversions.
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

(Desert Institute for Spine Care photo)...

Why DISC is world renowned for back and neck pain treatments

Fifty percent of Americans and 90% of people at least 50 years old have some level of degenerative disc disease.
(Photo via MLB's Arizona Fall League / Twitter)...
Arizona Fall League

Top prospects to watch at this year’s Arizona Fall League

One of the most exciting elements of the MLB offseason is the Arizona Fall League, which began its 30th season Monday.
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet can improve everyday life

Quantum Fiber supplies unlimited data with speeds up to 940 mbps, enough to share 4K videos with coworkers 20 times faster than a cable.
ACLU: Squalid conditions at troubled Baltimore jail