ACLU Forces Sweeping Improvements At Baltimore City Jail

For Immediate Release

Organization Profile: 
Contact: 

Will Matthews, ACLU, (212) 549-2582 or 2666; media@aclu.org
Debra Gardner, Public Justice Center, (410) 625-9409, ext. 228; gardner@publicjustice.org

ACLU Forces Sweeping Improvements At Baltimore City Jail

Detainee Medical And Mental Health Care Will Improve As A Result Of Agreement To Settle Longstanding Lawsuit

BALTIMORE, Maryland - The
American Civil Liberties Union and the Baltimore-based Public Justice
Center today announced an agreement with Maryland state officials that
will lead to dramatic improvements in the quality of medical and mental
health care provided to detainees at the Baltimore City Jail and
effectively settles major portions of a longstanding class-action
lawsuit.

"This agreement will help ensure
that all detainees receive the kind of medical and mental health care
that they are constitutionally entitled to, and state officials credit
for agreeing to these improvements," said Elizabeth Alexander, Director
of the ACLU National Prison Project. "Detainees have been forced to
endure undue pain and suffering for far too long, and the hope is that
this agreement will go great lengths towards alleviating the neglect of
their medical needs by jail officials."

As a result of the settlement
agreement, filed today in U.S. District Court for the District of
Maryland, detainees will receive responses to sick calls within 72
hours, jail officials will be required to provide ongoing treatment to
detainees with chronic diseases, an on-site psychiatrist will be
available to detainees five days a week and detainees with disabilities
will be provided with necessary housing supplies.

Additionally, jail officials will
ensure that detainees continue to receive any necessary medications
prescribed to them prior to their arrival at the jail and that those
prescriptions are renewed without interruption. The agreement also
requires jail officials to fix any broken plumbing in a timely manner
so that public health within the jail is not threatened.

"We are hopeful that this settlement
will not only effectively provide access to health care for those in
the jail but will also address a serious public health concern for the
city of Baltimore," said Wendy Hess, an attorney with the Public
Justice Center. "Given the tens of thousands of people with treatable,
chronic and often communicable diseases that move in and out of the
jail every year, this agreement affects the health of everyone in the
city."

The ACLU, along with the Public
Justice Center, filed a motion in 2003 to reopen the medical and
physical plant sections of a consent decree that had been brokered in
the case, Duvall v. O'Malley,
which dates back more than three decades. At the time, statements from
a medical expert and numerous current and former detainees revealed a
pervasive lack of medical and mental health care, as well as dangerous
and unsanitary living conditions in the jail. A district court judge
agreed to reopen the case in 2004, and the ACLU and the Public Justice
Center began settlement negotiations in 2007.

The jail has been riddled with
problems for years resulting from the failure of jail officials to
provide necessary medical treatment. Detainees with uncontrolled and
untreated diabetes have died, a detainee with a history of cancer went
three months without having a suspicious lump in her breast diagnosed
and detainees have gone months without receiving needed medications
upon entering the jail. A 2008 Department of Justice report found
multiple examples of women not getting timely access to care, and a
2007 report by the Maryland Office of Legislative Audits found that 10
percent of detainees with chronic medical conditions went at least six
months between medical examinations and 39 percent of detainees that
were given examinations did not received requested medical treatment
within established timeframes.

Approximately 40,000 people pass through the jail per year, and the jail's average daily population is about 4,500.

A copy of today's settlement agreement is available online at: www.aclu.org/prison/conditions/40749lgl20090818.html

Additional information about the ACLU National Prison Project is available online at: www.aclu.org/prison

Additional information about the ACLU of Maryland is available online at: www.aclu-md.org

Additional information about the Public Justice Center is available online at: www.publicjustice.org

 

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

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