Lawsuit alleges illegal jailing in Maryland

Lawsuit alleges illegal jailing in Maryland

July 21, 2022 0 By Ellen Novack

Hechinger highlighted devastating civil rights violations alleged in the lawsuit. He tweeted from the suit:

Every night, hundreds of people are jailed awaiting trial in Prince George’s County,  Maryland, despite the absence of any legally sufficient order that they be detained. These unlawfully jailed people comprise approximately 1/3 the entire  population of the Jail.

No court has found that they are too dangerous to be released. Nor has any court found that they would be a flight risk if released. In fact, the opposite is true. A judge has decided that each of these people could safely be released into the community w/ appropriate conditions.

Nevertheless, each person remains in jail, in violation of their state and federal  constitutional rights, because Judges have abdicated their responsibilities & instead referred the decision to unaccountable non-judicial  county officials (department of corrections officials).

The unaccountable Corrections officials make these critical decisions behind closed doors, without a hearing or the participation of the arrested person or the  state, and based on the officials’ own criteria unrelated to public safety or flight risk.

These county officials take weeks or months to reach a decision, during which time the jailed persons suffer severe harms, including being cut off from their family, friends, and attorneys; losing their homes and jobs; and lacking  adequate physical and mental healthcare.

At the end of the lengthy processing time, the officials often decide not to release  those who have been referred to the Pretrial Division. In many cases, no explanation is provided.

Then, Hechinger listed each of the nine plaintiffs’ stories as described in the suit:

Donnell Davis was detained for 90 days after a judge authorized his release. He was  locked in his jail cell for 23 hours each day during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. He was  only released when, at trial, he was found not guilty of all charges against him.

Leslie Sharp was detained for 29 days after a judge ordered him released. He missed  his best friend’s funeral and was separated from his bedridden grandmother and 12-year-old  daughter. He was released when the State dismissed all charges against him on the day of trial.

Elmer Laguan-Salinas was detained for 92 days after a judge authorized his release.  During this time he lost his home & was separated from his 14-month-old daughter. He was  housed in a cell with worms and black water. After three months of delays, he was finally released.

Adrienne Worthington was detained for 10 days after a judge authorized her release. Spent Christmas & New Year’s in jail, separated from children &  grandchildren. She fell behind on rent & lost her house. After release all charges dropped. But she remains unhoused to this day.

STILL ILLEGALLY DETAINED: Robert Frazier was authorized for release on May 31, 2022. His mother died soon  thereafter. He was not released in time to pay his respects. On June 21, the court ordered his release.  He remains in jail 49 days after his release was authorized.

Anibal Hernandez was ordered released on June 25, 2022. His attorney has emailed  the jail no fewer than six times trying to effectuate this order. Three weeks later, Mr. Hernandez  is still detained.

D.P. is a 16-year-old boy. A judge authorized his release on June 21, 2022. Nearly  a month later, he remains jailed, separated from his mother and seven-year-old sisters. Because he  has been detained for so long, he will likely be held back in school.

Christopher Butler was arrested on October 26, 2021 and ordered released on February 18, 2022. Five months later, he remains detained. He has not seen his 10-year-old  daughter in the nine months since he was arrested, as the jail does not permit children to visit.

Miramba Williams was authorized for release on July 5, 2022. Nearly two weeks later, he remains incarcerated, locked in his cell for 23 hours each day.

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Named as defendants in the suit are judges LaKeecia Allen, Bryon Bereano, John Bielec, Scott M. Carrington, Ada Clark-Edwards, Stacey Cobb Smith, Brian C. Denton, Robert W. Heffron Jr., Donnaka Lewis, Gregory C. Powell, and Cathy Serrette. Prince George’s County and those leading its corrections department are also included as defendants.

Ellora Israni, an attorney on the case with the nonprofit Civil Rights Corps, told The Washington Post the nonprofit takes on numerous bail-related cases across the country, and its “never seen anything like this” before.

“It’s not that there is one piece of the puzzle that is the problem,” Israni said. “Everyone has bought into this collective abdication of responsibility.”

A spokesperson for the Maryland judiciary told The Washington Post that judges do not comment on pending litigation, and a county spokesperson was similarly short in a statement, saying officials “have been made aware of the allegations and are reviewing them” but had “not yet been served with a lawsuit” as of Tuesday evening.

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