Jacqueline Bouknight, held at the Baltimore City Detention Center for more than six years, now has lost special access to her attorney at what sources describe as a crucial point in her case.
Ms. Bouknight has been held in civil contempt of court since April 28, 1988, for refusing to reveal to social workers the whereabouts of her young son, whom she had been suspected of abusing. A number of lawyers and law professors interviewed cite hers as the longest incarceration in memory for civil contempt.
Lawyer M. Cristina Gutierrez, one of Ms. Bouknight's few visitors, said that during the 6 1/2 years Ms. Bouknight has been jailed, she DTC had worked out an arrangement for access after normal hours and visits in an office instead of in booths divided by glass panes.
But this week, Ms. Gutierrez said, detention center officials informed her she would have to visit Ms. Bouknight in the regular visiting area during normal visiting hours.
Because she is being held on a civil contempt order -- meaning she could be released at virtually any time she provided a lead that resulted in the production of Maurice, her son -- Ms. Bouknight needs to be able to see her attorney outside regular visiting hours and to be able to review legal papers easily, Ms. Gutierrez said.
"Her incarceration is different," Ms. Gutierrez said. "The circumstances of her case are such that they require more privacy."
Sources familiar with the case told The Sun this week that two out of three attorneys in the case, including the attorney who represents the missing child, have filed motions arguing that Ms. Bouknight should be released because the contempt order has not worked and is not likely to.
Though authorities still cannot find Ms. Bouknight's son, who would now be 8, she has never been charged with a crime in connection with his disappearance.
LaMont W. Flanagan, who oversees the former City Jail as commissioner of pretrial detention and services, said the standard visiting policy for female inmates is "very liberal" and that contact visits are banned for security reasons.
Joan Gordon, an assistant state attorney general who represents officials running the detention center, said jail authorities had challenged Ms. Gutierrez's unusual access to her client at least once in the three years since the state took over the facility.
Ms. Gordon said the jail's intention is not to deny Ms. Bouknight visits with her attorney.
"Clearly, this is a situation where if special circumstances are brought to the detention center's attention, the matter could be reevaluated," she said.