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Cluster proposes giving detention center back to city

Del. John Cluster said Tuesday he is drafting a bill that would return the operation of the Baltimore City Detention Center and Central Booking facility back to the city.

Del. John Cluster

Del. John Cluster

“The state shouldn’t be in the business of running detention centers,” said Cluster, R-Baltimore County.

The Baltimore City facilities are the only local detention centers that are operated by the state.

Cluster’s bill would return management of the detention center and central booking facilities to the city beginning Jan. 1, 2015.

The city would assume the costs of running the facility over five years. The state would pick up 100 percent of the costs in the first three years of that phase-in. The city would split the costs 50-50 with the state in year four and assume the full operating costs in the final year.

The operating budget for the detention center and booking facility are expected to be as much as $136.5 million in the coming fiscal year, Cluster said.

The state took over the troubled facilities in 1991.

In the last year, illegal activities at the detention center resulted in federal indictments in April for 25 individuals including inmates and 13 correctional officers.

Tavon White, described as the gang leader in the center, allegedly impregnated two female correctional officers at the facility. White pleaded guilty to federal racketeering conspiracy charges and the attempted murder charges for which he was originally arrested.

Last month, an additional 14 current and former correctional officers were indicted in federal court on charges of racketeering, drug- and money-laundering conspiracies.

A legislative task force created in the wake of the scandals called last week proposed that the state spend nearly $1.1 billion [Subscriber access] for a new men’s and women’s detention center, juvenile facility and Maryland Detention Center. Cluster is a member of that task force.

State Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services Secretary Gary Maynard resigned [Subscriber access] his position Dec. 12 to take a position with the Criminal Justice Institute, a nonprofit organization that offers consulting and other services to prison systems.