Baltimore City Men’s Jail (via Creative Commons)
Baltimore City Men’s Jail (via Creative Commons)

The Baltimore City Men’s Detention Center has been closed for three years now, but through an idea fielded by the governor’s office, a portion of the building could become a drug treatment facility.

Just after state officials on Tuesday published a study about redeveloping the aged State Center complex in Midtown, the governor’s office announced a separate study to explore converting part of the former men’s prison into a treatment center for addicted inmates.

Gov. Larry Hogan shuttered the decrepit jail in 2015, calling it a “deplorable facility” that should have been shuttered years earlier. But on Tuesday, his office said in an announcement that the pre-Civil War building have potential as “a therapeutic detention facility to provide treatment for incarcerated individuals with substance use disorders and other behavioral health ailments.”

Sixty percent of the inmates in the jail complex are estimated to have a substance abuse disorder.

“Our system of justice must hold criminals who traffic deadly drugs into our communities accountable for the destruction they cause, but we must draw a distinction between high-level dealers and nonviolent users who are struggling with addiction,” Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford said in a statement.

The state’s Public Safety and Correctional Services and Health departments, along with the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention, would pick a consultant to conduct the study.

The state is already paying two local architecture firms to plan a partial demolition of 39 structures in the entire correctional complex off of I-83. The men’s and women’s detention centers, the historic Warden’s House administration building and the western wing of the Metropolitan Transit Center are among the buildings that would be demolished.

A corrections department spokesman previously told Baltimore Fishbowl the actual demolition would take 18 months and cost $28 million.

Hogan revealed the plan to study the drug treatment center idea as part of a broader effort targeting opioid addiction in Maryland. Hogan’s officer said Attorney General Brian Frosh is now authorized to sue opioid makers and distributors “on the grounds that they have misled the public and helped to create the addiction crisis gripping Maryland and the nation,” according to a release.

Frosh said in a statement that his office already has “multiple attorneys working tirelessly” to investigate opioid manufacturers and distributors, a multi-state effort that Maryland joined last summer. However, he said Hogan has not provided adequate resources, and that the governor denied a funding request from Frosh to hire four additional attorneys for the investigation.

Ethan McLeod is a freelance reporter in Baltimore. He previously worked as an editor for the Baltimore Business Journal and Baltimore Fishbowl. His work has appeared in Bloomberg CityLab, Next City and...