Hogan administration moves last detainees out of closed Baltimore jail

The Baltimore Men's Detention Center will close at 5 p.m. today

State corrections officials have transferred the last detainees from the Baltimore City Detention Center, Gov. Larry Hogan said Tuesday, bringing an end to the decrepit jail.

"The final closure of this detention center removes a stain on the reputation of our state and Maryland's correctional system," Hogan, a Republican, said in a statement. "For years, corruption, criminal activity, and deplorable conditions have plagued this facility, but that ends today."

Hogan announced last month that he would close the Men's Detention Center and move 1,100 inmates and detainees to other facilities in Baltimore. The jail's 772 employees are to be transferred to other nearby facilities in Maryland, or to other parts of the corrections complex in Baltimore, state officials said.

Del. Curt Anderson, a Baltimore Democrat, called the state's handling of the jail's closure "efficient."

"It must be a logistical nightmare to get something like that done," he said. Anderson called the jail "expensive to run and not good for security. I've been there, and it couldn't be any worse."

Most have cheered the governor's decision, but there have been some complications. Attorneys for some detainees said they were having trouble keeping tabs on clients as they were moved to nearby buildings, including an annex building, a jail industries building and the women's detention center.

But Charles H. Dorsey III, the state's deputy public defender, said Tuesday that Stephen T. Moyer, the state's corrections secretary, has fixed those issues.

"Secretary Moyer has taken care of the access problem we were having with our clients," Dorsey said. "We're glad they closed the jail. It wasn't fit for an animal to live there. If they had put animals there, the animal rights people would have been outraged."

Thomas Maronick Jr., one of the attorneys who reported trouble locating a client, said he hasn't had problems lately.

"It's a dump, and I'm glad it's closed," he said.

The jail housed defendants awaiting trial and convicts serving short sentences. The state took it over in 1991.

The facility has a history of corruption and violence. In 2013, federal authorities announced indictments against dozens of inmates and corrections officers in a contraband-smuggling scheme; the leader of the Black Guerrilla Family gang was recorded on a wiretapped phone call declaring, "This is my jail."

Hogan has said the Civil War-era jail could be torn down. There are no plans to build a new facility. Baltimore's jail population has dipped in recent years, opening room elsewhere for the inmates from the detention center.

The closure is expected to save taxpayers $10 million to $15 million annually, he said.

Some lawmakers said they were still waiting for more details about the governor's plans.

House Speaker Michael E. Busch said his question is: "Where are the prisoners?"

"Everyone would be supportive of replacing the city jail, but you also have 1,100 detainees awaiting a trial or incarcerated, and no one has indicated where those individuals are," he said.

Each jurisdiction in Maryland is required by law to maintain a detention center.

Busch said House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Maggie McIntosh, a Baltimore Democrat, will hold hearings on Hogan's moves at the detention center in late September or early October.

The jail is part of a larger complex of corrections facilities just east of downtown Baltimore. The complex includes the Baltimore Central Booking and Intake Center and the Chesapeake Detention Facility, formerly known as Supermax. It also includes the women's jail, which will remain open.

Officials from the American Civil Liberties Union and the Public Justice Center have said their lawsuit against the state will continue until detainees receive better health care and more humane treatment.

Tara Huffman, director of the Criminal and Juvenile Justice Program at the Open Society Institute-Baltimore, said the state should ask itself: "Can we serve these individuals some place else other than a jail?"

"Then, we are talking about reforming the justice system in a way that saves money and makes sense for individual communities and families," she said.

State officials said they have created customer service phone lines to help family members of detainees contact their loved ones once they have been moved to other facilities. Those numbers are 410-545-8120, 410-545-8121, 410-545-8128 and 410-545-8129.

Baltimore Sun reporter Michael Dresser contributed to this article.

lbroadwater@baltsun.com

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