Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) announced Thursday plans for the 'immediate' closure of the 'deplorable' Baltimore City Detention Center, the only local jail in the nation to be run by a state.
Governor Hogan has called the facility a “black eye” and “embarrassment” for the state of Maryland. "It makes no sense to keep this deplorable facility open,” he told reporters at a press conference Thursday afternoon.
The jail currently houses 1,092 male inmates, including 145 awaiting trial. Those inmates are expected to be reassigned to nearby detention centers. "There is plenty of capacity in the system," Hogan said.
Hogan said the jail is slated to be torn down with no new jail to be built in its place, according to the Baltimore Sun.
The Civil War era jail was taken over by the state in 1991. It has an infamous history of gang activity, prisoner abuse, and corruption.
In 2012, investigators found that a drug-dealing gang leader was directing drug deals and committing extortion from the facility.
In April 2013, prosecutors indicted correction officers, inmates, and others over drug trafficking and money-laundering operation coordinated from within the center.
The indictment described how Tavon White, a member of the Black Guerrilla Family, took control of the prison gang and fathered four children with corrections officers.
Out of 44 defendants, 40 have been convicted in the case, including 24 corrections officers.
Elizabeth Alexander, a Washington-based attorney who worked on the case, told the Sun that she is concerned about the immediate effects of the closure. “I am greatly concerned that the short-term effects of closure, absent the most careful planning and reform, will exacerbate the medical and mental health failures to which detainees are subjected,” she wrote in an email to the Associated Press, Thursday morning.
Maryland officials say more than $58 million has been spent over the past decade to improve safety at the facility.
Baltimore City Council member Brandon Scott told The Washington Post he appreciates that Hogan acknowledged the “decades of neglect by many governors,” but added it is important to know what is going to happen to inmates and those who work at the facility.
Senator Pugh says she was assured by the administration that employees would not lose their jobs as a result of the closure.
This report includes material from the Associated Press.