- Associated Press - Thursday, August 27, 2015

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - About 850 pre-trial detainees who were held in the now-closed men’s section of the Baltimore City Detention Center have been moved to buildings within about a block of the notoriously deteriorated state-run jail, state officials said Thursday.

Officials led reporters on a tour of the maze-like correctional complex in downtown Baltimore, two days after the last male inmates and detainees were moved from the jail.

“No detainees were moved out of Baltimore,” said Stephen Moyer, secretary of the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. “We did move a couple blocks of prison population, but no detainees awaiting trial in Baltimore.”

Officials say the buildings now housing the detainees are much safer. The dangerously decrepit detention center pre-dated modern penal facility standards. It was known for its hazardous conditions, including blind corners and dark corridors. It has walls dating to the 19th century, before the Civil War. Even empty, the interior is a stuffy, a crumbling relic with cramped cells crammed next to and on top of each other.

“This building needed to go,” Moyer said. “After the fifth time I came through here, I could barely stomach it.”

About 250 pre-trial detainees, who have not been convicted but are awaiting trial, were moved to the Metropolitan Transition Center, which was built in the 1990s about a block from the shuttered detention center.

“It’s better lighted,” said Brenda Shell, commissioner for the Division of Pre-trial Detention and Services. “It’s more open, and it is safer and we have staffed it so that it will be safe.”

Others are housed in the women’s detention center nearby. The rest are held at Jail Industries Building across the street.

Some of the detention center’s prison population was moved to facilities outside of Baltimore. There were 250 sentenced inmates in the facility when its closure was announced last month.

As part of the overall shuffling to make room, some sentenced inmates who were in the buildings now occupied by pre-trial detainees were moved outside of the city.

A decline in the state’s prison population opened up capacity to make the moves, Moyer said.

In June, the American Civil Liberties Union and Public Justice Center asked a federal judge to reopen a lawsuit against the state over what they said were conditions so substandard it brings “shame to this city.” They cited moldy showers and cells infested with mice and cockroaches.

Gov. Larry Hogan announced plans July 30 to close the jail, where a sweeping federal indictment in 2013 exposed a sophisticated drug- and cellphone-smuggling ring involving dozens of gang members and correctional officers. The investigation also exposed sexual relations between jailhouse gang leader Tavon White and female guards that left four of them pregnant.

Forty of the 44 defendants charged in the racketeering conspiracy were convicted, including 24 correctional officers.

Hogan has said the closer of the detention center will save the state $10 million to $15 million annually.

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