A 23-year-old inmate being held at the Baltimore City Detention Center on charges of attempted murder was critically injured Tuesday evening when he and his cellmate fought in their cell, authorities said.
Lennard Benjamin of West Baltimore was found in his cell by a correctional officer making a security check at 5:30 p.m.
Benjamin was taken to Johns Hopkins Hospital, where he remained in critical condition yesterday, authorities said. His relatives said last night that doctors told them he had suffered severe brain damage.
"He got beat in the head with something," said Kevin Scott, an uncle. "He's got blood in the brain. [Doctors] aren't giving him too much of a chance."
The assault was the latest violent incident at the city's pretrial facilities, which include the city detention center and the adjacent Central Booking and Intake Center.
The facilities recently have come under fire from correctional officer unions and inmate advocates alleging crowding, deplorable living conditions and inadequate staffing.
Last month, inmate Raymond K. Smoot died after a violent confrontation with correctional officers. For that incident, eight officers were fired and the city state's attorney's office is reviewing the case to determine whether any officers will face criminal charges in his death, which the state medical examiner ruled a homicide.
This month, a 21-year-old corrections officer at the detention center was charged with conspiracy to commit attempted murder after an inmate was stabbed.
Evelyn Horton, an aunt of Benjamin's, said yesterday that her nephew graduated from high school, attended community college and worked at a supermarket. His mother died three years ago, his father recently moved to South Carolina, and he has a brother, Horton said.
Benjamin was charged in January with attempted murder after police accused him of shooting a man in the chest in Baltimore, records show.
"He got involved with the wrong crowd," Horton said.
Commissioner William J. Smith, head of the Division of Pretrial Detention and Services, the state agency that runs the city jail facilities, said yesterday that the assault on Benjamin remains under investigation. The name of Benjamin's cellmate was not released.
Smith and other corrections officials blame the actions of individual officers and inmates for recent incidents.
Smith said correctional officers have a difficult job because they often deal with inmates who are prone to violence.
"One thing the public has to understand is that we're dealing with the same issues that the Baltimore City police are dealing with on a daily basis," Smith said. "Only we deal with these individuals inside, behind the walls. It's a tough population to manage."