Unsanitary and dangerous conditions at the Baltimore City Detention center prompted civil rights lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union to file a motion Tuesday alleging the city’s facilities have led to “unnecessary suffering,” the New York Times reports.
In the filing — which details the “dank and dangerous” conditions that serve as a host to vermin, mold and filth — the civil rights group has asked for a judge to force improvements on behalf of the jail’s 3,000 detainees. The motion comes despite “longstanding assurances that conditions would be improved in the Baltimore jail,” the Times writes.
Stephen T. Moyer, secretary of Maryland’s Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, said in a statement that his staff was working to address the “perceived issues” at the jail, noting the state has spent $58 million to improve it in the last decade.
“We are committed to providing the best service to our clients and will remain committed to ensuring accepted standards are met,” Mr. Moyer said.
While the jail’s crumbling condition has been in question for some time — the group filed its first class action to push for improvements back in 1993 — the conversation surrounding how harmful the facility was to inmates was reinvigorated after hundreds were arrested during the “Baltimore Uprising” — protests and demonstrations against police violence that were sparked by the death of a young Black man in police custody in April.
The claims go beyond dirty cells, the news site points out. Inadequacies in the facility prove more ominous than a clogged drain.
The filing includes details about 24 inmates who allegedly did not receive adequate medical or mental health care — errors that in seven cases might have led to their deaths. These inmates’ medical records, obtained by the suing attorneys, are said to highlight “dangerous failures” on the part of the Baltimore City Detention Center. Lags in prescription medication, inaction when inmates experienced hypertensive issues and general denial of crucial medical supplies are cited as alleged missteps.
One of the 24 inmates profiled in the filing was prescribed three blood pressure medications and experiencing heroin withdrawal. He died from hypertensive cardiovascular disease in June 2013 after collapsing. Medical records do not indicate whether he received his medication or any follow-up care before succumbing to his health issues.
The motion also says that at one point, plumbing for sinks and toilets was down for days and many inmates who entered jail with existing medical conditions like diabetes and HIV had to wait weeks for drugs.
“The atmosphere was fetid and unhealthy because the detainees had no way to dispose of their bodily wastes except by using the nonfunctional toilets,” the motion said.
Former director of the National Prison Project of the ACLU, Elizabeth Alexander, says conditions in the hundreds-years-old jail didn’t just pop up. “Lack of staff, lack of resources, and ultimately a lack of priority for people who don’t have much influence in society all led to this,” she told the Times.
You can find more information on the ACLU’s motion, here.