The American Civil Liberties Union asked a judge to force improvements at the Baltimore city jail, asking the state of Maryland to reopen a federal lawsuit. Photo by sakhorn/Shutterstock
BALTIMORE, June 3 (UPI) -- Despite a landslide of lawsuits and settlements aimed at improving conditions at the Baltimore City Detention Center, inmates still live in squalor and disease is rampant, the American Civil Liberties Union said.
In a court filing in U.S. District Court in Maryland on behalf of the roughly 3,000 inmates, the civil rights group called the jail "a dank and dangerous place, where detainees are confined in dirty cells infested with vermin." Detainees are repeatedly denied urgent medical care, which may be linked to seven deaths since 2013, the ACLU and the Public Justice Center said in the joint filing on Tuesday.
After reviewing more than three dozen inmate cases, the groups found the jail buildings, some which date back to the 1850s, have moldy showers, excessively hot and humid conditions and broken plumbing. Sick inmates often go without medical care for chronic conditions that include HIV and diabetes. The organizations are seeking to reopen a consent order and settlement agreement issued in 1993 and require the state to immediately improve conditions.
"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."
Stephen T. Moyer, secretary of Maryland's Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, said his staff is working to address the "perceived issues" at the jail.
"Over the course of the past 10 years, the state of Maryland has invested more than $58 million to improve the safety and security of inmates and staff at [the jail.] [The department of public safety and corrections] has demonstrated its commitment to the principles of the [settlement agreement], and shall continue efforts to improve the operations of all correctional facilities throughout the state of Maryland."
The court filing is the latest push by the civil liberties groups to improve conditions at the jail. The organization first filed a class action on behalf of the inmates in 1993, saying the conditions amounted to cruel and unusual punishment. The most recent agreement was in 2012, which asked the federal court to require improved conditions immediately. It is yet another black eye in a city still reeling from the violence over the death of Freddie Gray, a black man who died while in police custody, which led to charges against six Baltimore police officers.