Public defender asks judge to release women from hot jail

August 15, 2002|By Allison Klein | Allison Klein,SUN STAFF

Noting extreme heat inside the women's jail, the Baltimore public defender's office urged a judge yesterday to release all inmates and asked that the state's top public safety official be held in contempt of court for not moving the women to "a more humane" facility.

The court motion, filed in District Court in Baltimore, asks that the female inmates, if not released, be moved to a jail that "does not threaten their health" and that Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services Secretary Stuart O. Simms be cited for contempt.

District Judge Charlotte M. Cooksey, who ordered two dozen women moved from the facility this week, did not respond yesterday. She said this week that jail officials could be found in contempt of court for not moving two dozen women subjected to overheated conditions.

Jail officials said they did not obey her order because they could not find a secure alternative facility for the women.

They devised a plan yesterday to cool the jail, which has no air conditioning and poor ventilation that contributed to temperatures' reaching 110 degrees inside the building this week.

The plan, released by LaMont W. Flanagan, commissioner of the state's Division of Pretrial Detention and Services, includes installing an air conditioner in the women's gymnasium by Saturday and taking inmates there for hours at a time so they can cool down.

"The whole idea behind the gym air conditioner is to meet the spirit of [Cooksey's] concern of hot and humid conditions," Flanagan said. "The general idea is to provide substantial out-of-cell time in a comfortable environment."

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