On July 30, Governor Larry Hogan spontaneously announced the closing of the Baltimore City Male Detention Center, the only local jail in the nation that is run by a state. Although Hogan failed to consult with local legislators before making the decision, he was confident in this risky action. “We know it’s the right decision,” he said.
Some argue that Governor Hogan should have consulted with local leaders and legislators before making this big decision. His objective of reducing spending in an attempt to tame Maryland’s budget deficit could be blinding him from seeing that economic stimulation is worth more than budget cuts.
Consulting the legislators would’ve made no difference in this case because shutting down the detention center was clearly the right move.
Hogan’s radical efforts to make budget cuts came with potential negative consequences in the past, which we witnessed after he turned down the Red Line Light Rail project this past June. An endeavor that was intended to stimulate employment rates and economic activity in impoverished West Baltimore.
Hogan perceived the Red Line project to be wasteful and was ultimately wrong because it had potential to help build better communities in West Baltimore. Similarly, Hogan thought that the detention center was unnecessary, but this time he was right.
Hogan was successful in saving $3 billion on the Red Line project and has estimated that closing the prison will save anywhere from $10 million to $15 million annually.
Thankfully, Hogan refused to follow his predecessor, Martin O’Malley, who planned to spend $500 million for the renovation of the prison. Hogan was reluctant to follow these plans to any extent and decided to terminate the prison immediately. Thus, he decided to avoid consulting legislature, which he said would “bog down the process.”
“The practice of continuously dumping hard-earned taxpayer money into this disastrous facility will not continue under my watch,” said Hogan. With its history of corruption and gang activity, the detention center was not doing what it was intended to — keep criminal activity off of the streets. In 2013, the Black Guerilla Family was able to run a drug-trafficking and money-laundering operation from within the prison, which also involved the help of corrections officers.
This action could help create a better community by making finances available to better causes. Closing the jail would create an “opportunity for the state to re-evaluate it spending priorities,” simply put by the Justice Policy Institute.
Perhaps this money would be used to address the $60 million dollar deficit that Baltimore City schools are facing. There is major need to stimulate growth and create a better community in the city. Maryland has become the second most violent city in America in 2015, after surpassing Detroit this year. This is something that we should be concerned about because it can severely hinder the development of safe communities and create a negative snowball effect.
Hogan made the right decision by cutting spending to increase spending flexibility. He should consider using the money to fund economic growth by helping stabilize the violence-ridden communities.