BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- A troubled jail is shut down. The governor makes a bold move and closes the notorious Baltimore City Detention Center.
A black eye for Maryland. That's how Governor Larry Hogan describes the lockup, best known for out of control inmates and numerous health and safety violations.
WJZ Investigator Mike Hellgren with details of its immediate shutdown.
The governor says most of the inmates will go to other facilities in Baltimore and said the infamous jail should have been closed years ago.
"The Baltimore City Detention Center is the worst prison in America," Governor Larry Hogan said.
The governor could not hide his disgust for the Baltimore jail or the corruption taking place there for years.
Gangs turned it into their playpen, smoking cigars, using illicit cell phones to sell drugs and having sex—and lots of it—with the officers who were supposed to be in charge.
"Closing this disaster of a facility and embarrassment to our state is an important step to putting Baltimore and Maryland back on the right track," the governor said.
"Definitely a nightmare," said Ralph Johnson Junior, who used to be an officer there.
Johnson says his old colleagues agree--the jail, dating to before the Civil War, had to go.
"It becomes more rat-infested. It becomes more deplorable. You have leaky toilets. You have leaky ceilings," he said. "So the longer it's open, the worse it will get."
The governor says he's going to tear down the building, but he's not going to replace it and no officers will lose their jobs.
Debra Gardner with the Public Justice Center is part of a class action lawsuit over the decrepit conditions.
"The men's detention center was a horrible place. It is a Civil War-era dungeon," she said. "No one should have to live, even for a short time, the way people have been living in the Baltimore City Detention Center."
No name is more strongly associated with the jail than Tavon White--the inmate turned star federal witness who ran a lucrative drug empire from his cell.
His testimony put more than a dozen officers behind bars and exposed just how broken things had become.
"Maryland taxpayers were unwittingly underwriting a vast criminal enterprise run by gang members and corrupt public servants," said Gov. Hogan.
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The governor did not ask Mayor Rawlings-Blake's opinion before he made his decision. The mayor's office issued a statement, saying:
"The Mayor has long had concerns about the condition of this facility. She looks forward to hearing more details from Governor Hogan's administration about its plans."
Advocates for inmates are worried they won't get the medicine they need and their loved ones won't know where they're going.
The governor says the closure will save taxpayers more than $10 million a year.
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