BALTIMORE — Maryland Governor Larry Hogan said last week that he will immediately be closing the Baltimore City Detention Center (BCDC) — a jail that has notoriously been known for its association with violent gangs — and the shutdown should only take a couple weeks.
Baltimore’s jail population has dropped in recent years, providing room for inmates in other jails within the city. As of two years ago, the daily population at the jail was more than 2,000 male inmates, but that number dropped to 1,092, according to The Baltimore Sun. The move could save taxpayers between $10 million and $15 million annually.
The state took over the jail in 1991, but it quickly became known for corruption and violence. In 2013, federal and state authorities said the jail was being run by the Black Guerrilla Family gang, and several inmates and corrections officers were indicted and convicted as a result. The facility received international attention in April 2013 when 13 women working as corrections officers were indicted after having sexual relationships with inmates, which resulted in multiple pregnancies, as well as smuggling cellphones, tobacco, drugs and other contraband into the facility.
“For years, Maryland taxpayers were unwittingly underwriting a vast criminal enterprise run by gang members and corrupt public servants,” said Gov. Hogan in a statement. “Ignoring it was irresponsible, and one of the biggest failures in leadership in Maryland history. That is why today, I have instructed Secretary Moyer to immediately shut down the Men’s Baltimore Detention Center.”
The jail is located within a larger complex of correctional facilities east of downtown Baltimore. The complex includes the Baltimore Central Booking and Intake Center and the Chesapeake Detention Facility, known as Supermax. This also includes the women’s jail, which will continue to remain open.
Not only does the jail have a bad reputation, it is in need of repairs. As far back as 1938, officials wanted the building to be demolished and to build a new one in its place. It is currently a maze of a dozen buildings that have been renovated 11 times throughout the years. Several housing plans areas have been closed due to structural damage and plumbing issues, making 185 beds unusable. Design plans for a new 27-acre jail were created a decade ago, reported The Baltimore Sun, but no current plans are in the works to replace it.
The state’s previous Governor Martin O’Malley created a 10-year plan to renovate the complex, with construction of a youth detention center as the first phase. The state Board of Public Works approved a $30 million plan for the new, 60-bed jail in May. While the state is moving forward with the plan of the youth detention center, current Gov. Hogan said that’s the only part of the plan that will continue to move forward.
Human rights’ groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union are relieved that the state decided to close the jail; however, they say that the other state facilities also have poor living conditions, reported The Baltimore Sun.
Inmates facing trial will be kept within city limits; however, some convicted inmates might be transferred to facilities outside the city. BCDC’s 772 employees currently working at the facility will also be transferred to other facilities in Maryland. The Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services created a customer service phone line staffed by employees to help family members of detainees locale and contact their loved ones once they have moved to other facilities.