'Deplorable' Baltimore City Jail Ordered Closed By Md. Governor The Baltimore City Detention Center houses 750 prisoners. It was built before the Civil War, and according to criminal justice activists, it is prone to floods, power failures, mold and vermin.
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'Deplorable' Baltimore City Jail Ordered Closed By Md. Governor

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'Deplorable' Baltimore City Jail Ordered Closed By Md. Governor

'Deplorable' Baltimore City Jail Ordered Closed By Md. Governor

'Deplorable' Baltimore City Jail Ordered Closed By Md. Governor

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The Baltimore City Detention Center houses 750 prisoners. It was built before the Civil War, and according to criminal justice activists, it is prone to floods, power failures, mold and vermin.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And the governor of Maryland surprised many in Baltimore yesterday when he announced that he'd be shutting down part of Baltimore's jail. As Christopher Connelly from member station WYPR reports, the state-run jail complex has long been a troubled place.

CHRISTOPHER CONNELLY, BYLINE: Someone should have done this years ago. That's the message from Maryland Governor Larry Hogan.

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LARRY HOGAN: The Baltimore City Detention Center has been a black eye for our state for too long.

CONNELLY: There have been a series of scandals. In the latest, the prisoners practically ran the place according to federal prosecutors. Dozens of inmates and their guards were indicted two years ago as part of an investigation into the gang known as the Black Guerrilla Family.

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HOGAN: For years, the Black Guerilla Family gang maintained a stronghold over this facility, running an empire built on the trafficking of drugs, contraband and intimidation.

CONNELLY: Hogan won't close the entire jail complex of two dozen buildings, just the oldest one. It was built in 1859. It's a brown and gray stone fortress, wrapped in barbed wire, housing 750 men.

DEBRA GARDNER: It's a Civil War-era dungeon is what it is.

CONNELLY: The Public Justice Center's Debra Gardner is part of the latest legal challenge to conditions inside the jail. She says there's no air-conditioning. There's routine flooding that knocks out the plumbing and electricity for days.

GARDNER: Vermin infestation - rats, roaches, mice, black flies, black mold.

CONNELLY: What's more, she says, inmates throughout Baltimore's jail system don't get adequate access to medical care and often go without needed medications.

GARDNER: It's inhumane. It's insufferable.

CONNELLY: This decrepit building is being shut down and the inmates moved to other cellblocks in the complex and elsewhere. But Gardner hopes that won't take the focus off of other problems in the system, problems that won't be fixed by closing one old building. For NPR News, I'm Christopher Connelly in Baltimore.

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