Intake center report is out

Recommendations in state's 10-page study are censored

December 09, 2005|By GUS G. SENTEMENTES | GUS G. SENTEMENTES,SUN REPORTER

State prison officials have given a judge and the city solicitor a heavily redacted consultant's report on problems at the state-run Central Booking and Intake Center in Baltimore, making it impossible to determine what, if any, remedies were recommended.

The Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, which runs the booking center, whited-out five of the 10 pages in the report. Officials said the blanked-out portions deal with their "internal decision-making" process for the center, which has been criticized for being crowded and inefficiently managed.

The redacted report was given to Circuit Judge John M. Glynn, who is overseeing a lawsuit filed by the public defender's office against the state over excessive delays for detainees in Central Booking. The same version was also given to The Sun and City Solicitor Ralph S. Tyler in response to Maryland Public Information Act requests. Baltimore has friend-of-the-court status in the lawsuit.

Tyler said he would consider suing the state to gain access to the full report.

"I'm disappointed that the state is unwilling [to disclose information] it has about an institution that is critically important to the citizens of this city," Tyler said.

Sun editor Timothy A. Franklin said yesterday that the newspaper would also consider a challenge. "We'll look into it and see what our options are," he said.

Karen V. Poe, a spokeswoman for the public safety department, said that it was not unusual that the report would be considered an "internal working document."

"It was developed for [Secretary Mary Ann Saar] and her staff, and that was always the intent of the report," Poe said. "It was always intended as an internal resource document."

The department retained an outside consultant last summer to assess the processing of new arrestees at the booking center after the public defender's office filed a lawsuit in April that alleged lengthy delays for people awaiting initial hearings. State law requires people to have a court hearing within 24 hours of their arrest, but public defenders said the booking center was holding people for far longer - sometimes twice as long - before they received hearings.

Natalie Finegar, chief attorney for the public defender's office at Central Booking, declined to comment. Glynn also declined to comment. "We'll have to await further action in this case," he said.

City officials and the Police Department have complained that the booking center is run inefficiently. But state officials have suggested that police have inundated the booking center with more arrests than it could handle, leading to delays and crowding. The police ramped up arrests this past summer, bringing nearly 9,000 people for booking and processing to the center in August.

In June, the department asked Col. David M. Parrish, who heads the Hillsborough County jail system in Florida, to review the processing of detainees at the booking center. The Sun requested to know how much Parrish was paid for the report and asked for a copy of his consulting contract, but the public safety department did not have that information available yesterday.

Parrish came to Baltimore in the final week of September, conducting interviews with prison officials, prosecutors, judges, public defenders and police, according to the report.

He submitted the report to the public safety department Oct. 21. It contains a one-page introduction and a two-page "historical perspective" section on the booking center's operations. Since the public defenders' lawsuit, Parrish noted, the public safety department has taken "extraordinary steps" to alleviate the problem.

The next five pages, titled "observations and recommendations," were redacted by the public safety department.

The Parrish report's conclusion notes that Maryland is "unique in that it is the only state to operate a major local jail, but not all jails, throughout the state."

The report concludes that "no one was in charge," or accountable, for making sure that the booking center complied with the 24-hour rule for granting detainees an initial hearing. The final paragraph of the conclusion is blacked out.

When reached last night, Parrish declined to comment, referring to a confidentiality agreement with the department.

gus.sentementes@baltsun.com

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