Maryland has agreed to expand medical care at the state-run Baltimore City Detention Center to settle a class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of pretrial detainees at the sprawling facility.
The deal, announced Wednesday, requires the jail to provide accommodations for people with disabilities and to establish guidelines for assessing, treating and independently monitoring detainees’ physical and mental health.
“At last, the Baltimore City Detention Center will provide adequate, timely medical care to detainees instead of abandoning those with injuries and illness,” Public Justice Center legal director Debra Gardner said.
The settlement comes after the Public Justice Center and the American Civil Liberties Union moved to reopen a 1993 case addressing allegations of inadequate care at the Baltimore jail.
A 1993 court order and agreements between the detention center and the Justice Department in 2007 and 2009 failed to address the conditions, according to the plaintiffs’ attorneys.
The 2009 settlement required early assessment of detainees’ medical needs upon entry, responses to sick-call requests within 72 hours, ongoing treatment for detainees with chronic diseases, an on-site psychiatrist available at least five days a week, and accommodations for those with disabilities. The plaintiffs’ lawyers said none of these requirements have been met.
A review of dozens of inmates’ medical records by the plaintiffs’ counsel found a lack of timely medical assessments, interruptions of medications for conditions such as diabetes and HIV infection and shortages of equipment such as wheelchairs, among other problems.
“We can’t undo the damage the jail has done to so many, but we can celebrate today’s settlement for its commitment to better conditions and for establishing independent monitors who will ensure progress,” said David Fathi, director of the ACLU’s National Prison Project.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) closed the men’s detention center at the Baltimore jail complex in July, saying conditions in the Civil War-era building were inhumane.
The state reassigned male inmates to other parts of the Baltimore complex or nearby, but it kept open the central booking center, the women’s jail and other pretrial facilities, which are located in newer buildings.
A U.S. District Court judge must still approve the latest settlement to make it enforceable as a court order.