Detainees Reopen Baltimore Jail Lawsuit Over Dangers to Health and Safety

Poor Medical and Mental Health Care and Disintegrating, Filthy Infrastructure Put Detainees at Risk

Affiliate: ACLU of Maryland
June 2, 2015 10:30 am

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BALTIMORE – The American Civil Liberties Union, the Law Offices of Elizabeth Alexander, and the Public Justice Center today filed a motion to reopen Duvall v. Hogan in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, as inhumane conditions remain at the Baltimore City Detention Center despite a 2009 settlement and court orders dating back to 1993. The jail endangers the health and safety of detainees by failing to provide adequate medical and mental health care and having a crumbling, vermin-infested infrastructure. Poor or absent medical attention is possibly implicated in the deaths of seven detainees in the last two and a half years.

“The Baltimore City Detention Center has persisted for so many years in neglecting detainees’ basic human needs: cleanliness, plumbing, basic health care, and more,” said David Fathi, director of the ACLU’s National Prison Project. “The conditions at the jail are a menace to the Constitution and to the public’s health.”

Today’s motion shows that the terms of a 2009 settlement have not been met. That agreement required early assessment of detainees’ medical needs upon entry, responses to detainees’ sick call requests within 72 hours and faster in emergencies, ongoing treatment for detainees with chronic diseases, an on-site psychiatrist available five days a week, and accommodations for detainees with disabilities. The jail was also to fix broken plumbing in a timely manner. None of these requirements have been fulfilled.

“At the Baltimore city jail, the potential for infection is unacceptably high,” said Elizabeth Alexander. “Broken toilets may not be fixed for weeks. Showers are often pest-infested and have black mold. Eating, sleeping, and living in these conditions — particularly when health care is scant — is an extra and unconstitutional punishment for detainees.”

The motion to reopen Duvall v. Hogan — filed today to meet the court’s final deadline for keeping the case open — details these and other problems with the jail’s physical plant that endanger detainees’ well-being. It also describes specific cases of detainees who received health care so inadequate that they suffered grave, unnecessary compromises in their health and safety.

“Over and over again, detainees in need of medical attention and treatment for infections, injuries, psychiatric conditions, and other urgent health concerns wait for days and weeks, their suffering prolonged to the point of cruelty,” said Debra Gardner, legal director at the Public Justice Center. “These conditions are unconscionable for those in the jail but also create public health concerns. We refuse to give up on the thousands held in Baltimore’s only jail and the communities to which they return.”

For the motion to reopen Duvall v. Hogan and other information about the case:

For information about the ACLU’s National Prison Project:

For information about the Public Justice Center:

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