Justice, state reach an agreement on jail report

January 17, 2007|By Nicole Fuller | Nicole Fuller,Sun reporter

The U.S. Department of Justice has reached an agreement with state officials regarding a scathing report it issued more than four years ago criticizing security, medical and sanitation conditions at the Baltimore City Detention Center and booking center.

The agreement -- the details of which were not released -- follows a six-year investigation into deficiencies in the jail's care for inmates.

"The department is very pleased to have reached this memorandum of understanding, and we continue to work very hard at the detention center," said Mark Vernarelli, spokesman for the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, which operates the facilities.

Vernarelli said he had not read the agreement and could not comment further. He said the department has made preliminary plans to build facilities to house women and juveniles separately on property that it owns on Madison Street in Baltimore.

State officials have said previously that the department has spent $2 million to improve the heating and ventilation system at the jail, replaced the roof on the building that houses female detainees, improved lighting in the yard, remodeled the kitchen and replaced equipment, improved education and replaced the medical provider. It also named a new warden and assistant warden.

In an August 2002 report to then-Gov. Parris N. Glendening, investigators detailed problems at the jail and Central Booking and Intake Center with medical and mental health care, sanitation, protection of juveniles and opportunities for exercise for inmates.

The report dealt mostly with conditions at the detention center, which holds men and women awaiting trial or serving short sentences, and only briefly mentioned some problems at the booking center, which annually processes and jails thousands of people who have just been arrested.

The report listed 107 recommendations for improvements.

Justice Department consultants visited the detention center and the Central Booking and Intake Center again in 2005 to determine whether progress was made.

Spokesmen for the administration of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., which ends today with the inauguration of Martin O'Malley, could not be reached for comment last night.

nicole.fuller@baltsun.com

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