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Wednesday, May 29, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Judge OK’s Settlement Over Jail Conditions

(CN) - A federal judge in Baltimore approved a class-action settlement requiring the Baltimore City Jail to step up its medical and mental health care for detainees. The deal settles claims that detainees with untreated diabetes have died, and others have gone months without necessary medication or screening.

The settlement, reached in August, requires jail officials to respond to sick calls within 72 hours, provide ongoing treatment to detainees with chronic diseases, provide an on-site psychiatrist five days a week, and ensure that detainees continue to receive all necessary medication.

Officials also agreed to fix any broken plumbing in a timely manner, to prevent the risk of a health threat.

U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz called the settlement "fair, reasonable and adequate."

Elizabeth Alexander, the lead attorney and former director of the ACLU National Prison Project, called the settlement a "major step forward."

Her sentiments were echoed by attorney Wendy Hess with the Public Justice Center, which joined the ACLU's fight to improve prison conditions.

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

About 40,000 people pass through the jail each year, and the jail holds about 4,500 people on any given day.

The settlement stems from a consent decree dating back three decades. A federal judge agreed to reopen the case in 2004, and the ACLU and the Public Justice Center began negotiating the settlement in 2007.

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