Federal Judge Approves ACLU Settlement Forcing Sweeping Improvements In Conditions At Baltimore City Jail

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Will Matthews, ACLU, (646) 233-9572 or (212) 549-2666; media@aclu.org
Wendy Hess, Public Justice Center, (410) 625-9409, ext. 222; hessw@publicjustice.org

Federal Judge Approves ACLU Settlement Forcing Sweeping Improvements In Conditions At Baltimore City Jail

Detainee Medical And Mental Health Care Will Greatly Improve After History Of Serious Mistreatment

BALTIMORE - A federal judge today gave final approval
to a settlement agreement that paves the way for sweeping improvements
to conditions at the Baltimore City Jail. The approval comes after the
American Civil Liberties Union and the Baltimore-based Public Justice
Center came to an agreement last year with Maryland state officials that
will lead to dramatic improvements in the quality of medical and mental
health care provided to detainees at the facility and effectively
settles major portions of a longstanding class action lawsuit.

"Jail officials have a constitutional
obligation to provide basic levels of medical and mental health care,"
said David Fathi, Director of the ACLU National Prison Project. "This
agreement will help ensure that officials at the Baltimore City Jail
follow the law."

A tentative settlement was reached in
August, but because the case is a class action brought on behalf of all
detainees at the jail, federal law required that the detainees be given
notice of the proposed settlement and an opportunity to comment on it
before it could be given judicial approval. Having considered those
comments, U.S. District Court Judge J. Frederick Motz today said the
settlement was "fair, reasonable and adequate" and gave it his approval.

"This is a major step forward," said
Elizabeth Alexander, the lead attorney in the case and former director
of the ACLU National Prison Project. "Implementing the settlement will
promote the public health by protecting the health and safety of those
who find themselves behind bars."

The settlement agreement mandates
that detainees receive responses to sick calls within 72 hours, jail
officials provide ongoing treatment to detainees with chronic diseases,
an on-site psychiatrist be available to detainees five days a week and
detainees with disabilities be provided with necessary housing supplies.

Additionally, jail officials are now
required to 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.

"The court's approval of the
settlement agreement is a significant step toward improving the safety
conditions in the Baltimore City Jail," said Wendy Hess, an attorney
with the Public Justice Center. "The human rights of men, women and
youth awaiting trial will now be protected."

The ACLU, along with the public
justice center, filed a motion is 2003 to reopen 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 (DOJ) report found that
less than half of requests for medical care were responded to in a
timely manner and concluded that health care in the jail is compromised
by poor administrative and nursing systems. The DOJ also cited routine
delays of days or even weeks in access to prescribed medications as well
as numerous examples of emergency room trips that could have been
prevented had proper care been provided.

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

A copy of the 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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