Court Asked to Revive Lawsuit Against Baltimore Jail to Protect Detainees from Deplorable Conditions

Affiliate: ACLU of Maryland
December 18, 2003 12:00 am

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BALTIMORE – Citing deplorable living conditions at the Baltimore City Detention Center that violate a federal consent decree, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Public Justice Center today filed a motion to enforce crucial provisions of the decade old order.

“The gross neglect of the health and well-being of detainees creates an intolerable and inhumane environment for the 4,000 men, women and children confined at the detention center,” said

Elizabeth Alexander, director of the ACLU’s National Prison Project. “We hope today’s motion will force Maryland officials to end these life-threatening conditions.”

In August 2002, the U.S. Department of Justice issued a damning report on the BCDC after an investigation found unconstitutional conditions there. The report details how “persons confined suffer harm or the risk of harm from deficiencies in the facility’s fire safety protections, medical care, mental health care, sanitation, opportunity to exercise and protections of juveniles.”

Recent interviews of BCDC detainees conducted by the ACLU and the Public Justice Center found little has changed since the DOJ investigation. Detainees complain that decent medical care is difficult if not impossible to receive in the crowded facility. Interviews and medical records revealed that patients have waited up to six months to receive treatment for serious medical concerns, HIV-infected and mentally ill detainees have been denied medications, and access to physician services has been severely limited.

“The failures of the BCDC’s medical services have already resulted in the deaths of at least two pre-trial detainees, and will likely lead to more if care is not improved,” said Wendy Hess, an attorney with the Public Justice Center. “Thousands of pre-trial detainees who remain behind bars face dangerous punishment before they are even convicted of a crime.”

Today’s motion highlights multiple cases of serious medical neglect at the jail and points to some findings from last year’s Department of Justice report. In one case, a doctor ordered a re-evaluation of a detainee with asthma, but the re-evaluation never occurred. The detainee eventually died of an acute asthma attack when his inhaler failed to work because of overuse. In another case, a woman committed suicide after a physician’s order regarding suicide precautions was not followed.

“For far too long, Maryland officials have allowed conditions at the Baltimore City Detention Center to deteriorate,” said local attorney Frank Dunbaugh. “Today’s filing brings Baltimore one step closer to ending the cruel conditions at BCDC.”

Today’s request to restore the medical and physical plant provisions of the consent decree in Duvall v. Glendening was filed in U.S. District Court by Alexander, Hess and Dunbaugh as well as attorney Deborah Jeon of the ACLU of Maryland.

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