Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

Settlement in Baltimore Prison Conditions Class-action Suit

The Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (MDPSCS) agreed to a settlement in a class-action suit challenging conditions of confinement and the provision of medical care at the Baltimore City Detention Center (BCDC).

The case encompassed BCDC and the Women’s Detention Center, the Jail Industries Building, the Wyatt Building and the Annex, and dated to 1971 – litigation had been ongoing for around 45 years. A consent decree was reached in 1993, then reactivated in 2003 after a motion was filed over extreme heat in the women’s unit. MDPSCS agree to install air conditioning but dozens of unresolved health-related issues led to another agreement in 2009.

That settlement was set to expire in June 2015, but complaints over conditions and the lack of timely medical assessments brought the case back before the court. The major issue was interruption of medications to control HIV, diabetes and other medical conditions that require a strict treatment regimen. Additionally, medical records were incomplete and there were shortages of essential equipment. Some of the buildings had moldy showers, extremely hot and humid air, filthy mattresses and faulty plumbing.

Stephen Moyer, who had assumed leadership at MDPSCS shortly before the case became active again, asked for time to consider the complaints. He worked with Governor Larry Hogan on a new settlement, in order to “bring[] to a close an ugly chapter in the history of the state.”

They decided to quickly shutter the BCDC in August 2015. Parts of the aging facility had been built during the Civil War.

“Closing the Baltimore City Detention Center resolved a significant number of issues immediately,” said MDPSCS chief spokesman Robert B. Thomas. “Secretary Moyer’s belief was this: You do the right thing for the right reason. You don’t wait for a federal court to order you to do something.”

Closing the BCDC was easier with a falling population. Just six years previously, it had a daily population of about 4,000 detainees. More recently it had around 3,000. The settlement in the class-action suit, reached in November 2015, will last four years. It covers the full spectrum of “substantive provisions” one would expect in an agreement involving medical and mental health care.

A few of the highlights include three monitors who will report on the progress of implementing the settlement’s provisions. MDPSCS will pay the monitors $30,000 per year in years one and four, and $20,000 per year in years two and three.

The settlement also requires that prisoners receive an intake assessment within 24 hours of being booked and initiation of medication within the same time period. A medical “plan of care” must be created, and if issues between security and medical treatment exist, they must be promptly resolved.

Detainees taking psychotropic medications must be placed in climate-controlled areas that maintain a temperature of no more than 88 degrees (F). Specialty medical care is also covered, and MDPSCS agreed to pay $450,000 in attorney fees and costs.

The district court approved the settlement and consent decree on June 28, 2016. The class was represented by the ACLU’s National Prison Project, the Public Justice Center and attorney Elizabeth Alexander. See: Duvall v. Hogan, U.S.D.C. (D. Md.), Case No. 1:94-cv-02541-ELH. 

Additional source: Baltimore Sun

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login

Related legal case

Duvall v. Hogan