Maryland officials moved another step forward with plans for a large new mental illness and substance abuse treatment center for certain nonviolent offenders in Baltimore.
The Department of General Services has issued a request for proposal for a design and construction consultant who would oversee various aspects of the planned Baltimore Treatment and Therapeutic Center, which officials say is expected to take around 10 years and cost more than $450 million to complete.
Plans call for the treatment center to be developed on the grounds of the former Baltimore City Detention Center, a state-owned city jail complex that was closed in 2015 after years of complaints about deteriorating conditions and being effectively controlled by the notorious Black Guerrilla Family gang.
The old building has been nearly entirely demolished to make way for the new facility, which Gov. Larry Hogan said he envisions becoming a place where certain defendants charged with nonviolent crimes could go for treatment for substance abuse and mental health issues.
According to a request for proposals posted earlier this month, the site is planned to include 504 in-custody beds, split between male and female detainees.
The project also includes a planned renovation of the Jail Industries Building on East Madison Street, which closed in 2017 but housed COVID-19 positive prisoners during the pandemic. The state plans for the renovation site to hold 300 in-custody beds.
Mark Vernarelli, spokesman for the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, said that, in addition to the planned construction at the detention center and Jail Industries sites, there’s “a future expansion still in the planning stage” which could bring more beds in the future.
The consultant would oversee management services throughout the project, according to the RFP. However, state officials wrote that the consultant would not control the actual design or construction of the site. Part of the scope of work includes assisting with the selection of a design team and aiding in the bidding process once officials begin entertaining bids for construction, according to the request.
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The planned center would look to bring more treatment options to detainees facing mental health or addiction issues, something advocates have said the state needs to do a better job addressing.
Throughout the year, the state has struggled to meet the demand for inpatient psychiatric beds, which has only risen during the pandemic. As of last month, a Department of Health spokesman said that all state-run psychiatric facilities were at capacity.
In addition, there have been a number of instances where inmates and others have been charged with smuggling addiction treatment drugs inside prison walls.
In April, the Maryland Attorney General’s Office announced that 13 people were indicted on charges they schemed to smuggle Suboxone, which is used to treat opioid addiction, into the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women in Anne Arundel County. One of the defendants was a dietary sergeant at the facility.
Robert Green, the state secretary of public safety and correctional services, said in a statement that the new facility “encompasses the best practices of treatment and programming.”
“It’s a new day for corrections and Baltimore City, as this purpose-built facility is intentionally focused on diversion, deflection, and treatment,” Green said.
This article may be updated.