Judge refuses to act against booking center He says inmates' lawsuit on delays needs review

June 11, 1996|By Michael James | Michael James,SUN STAFF

A Baltimore Circuit Court judge refused yesterday to impose new restrictions on the state's new Central Booking and Intake Center, saying it's too early to reach any conclusions on whether prisoner rights have been violated.

Judge David B. Mitchell said that a lawsuit filed on behalf of prisoners claiming they were unlawfully detained for hours after making bail is in the "preliminary" stages and needs more review. A hearing is scheduled July 15.

Attorney Alan P. Zukerberg, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the prisoners, had asked the judge to enjoin the booking facility from holding any inmate for more than 24 hours or any "unreasonable period of time."

Maryland law requires that anyone arrested receive a bail hearing before a court commissioner without "unreasonable delay." But some prisoners have complained that instead of speeding up the process, the $56 million booking facility -- heralded by state officials as a law-enforcement marvel -- has mired them in a technological morass.

The judge conceded yesterday that glitches had plagued the system but said that he was "assured by [state officials] that the initial bugs and gremlins that caused a number of these complaints have been rectified. If not, plaintiffs will surely press again for immediate relief."

In Zukerberg's class action lawsuit, he cited the case of Deborah Michelle Barnes, 25, who was arrested on a drunken-driving charge April 7.

She said she spent more than two days in the booking center before seeing a commissioner, who released her on her own recognizance. Then she waited five more hours before officials finally let her out.

Pub Date: 6/11/96

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