PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY, Md. - Nine current and former inmates sued Prince George's County in July claiming hundreds of people are being illegally jailed, violating the constitution. Now, FOX 5 is speaking with the plaintiffs.
The complaint accuses county judges of abandoning their duties and the Department of Corrections for failing to swiftly process judges' orders.
As a general matter, people charged with a crime are innocent until proven guilty, and pre-trial detention is the exception, not the rule. Typically, charged individuals are detained before trial when they pose a danger to the community or are a flight risk. But the inmates who filed this lawsuit say that is not what happens in Prince George's County.
FOX 5 spoke to a woman from Oxon Hill whose son was released late from jail and is suing the county on his behalf.
"You want my honest opinion? I was pissed because he was authorized for release in June. He was released August 30," said the woman.
The woman is identified as KP because her minor son's criminal case is still pending, and as is the case with minors, all court records are sealed.
KP's 16-year-old son was arrested on June 16 and a Prince George's County judge authorized his release for home detention five days later. A second judge authorized his release a week later, according to the complaint. KP remained in detention until August 30 -- nearly two months later.
While in detention, KP was placed on suicide watch in the adult medical unit. He was allowed out for one hour a day.
"It was 23 and 1, you know, 23 hours in a cell, one hour out for recreation. His hour would be 12:00 a.m. maybe 1:00 a.m. So, I would wait up for his phone calls, even if I had to go to work the next day," said KP. "I don't think no teen would cope with that. Being placed in a box for 23 hours. No one will adults either. I'm pretty sure it was tough on him."
KP is now working on getting her son caught up in school. He missed class after he was detained. He also missed the start of the new school year this week.
Leslie Sharp, a 35-year-old DMV native, is also suing the county. In June 2021, he was arrested in Prince George's County for second-degree assault. He was then detained for 29 days after a judge ordered him released, according to the complaint.
On the day of his trial, prosecutors dismissed all charges against him. A court filing from Prince George's County indicates sharp was ordered detained because he violated probation in D.C.
"My grandmother is basically bedridden. I used to help take care of her. She's stays with my aunt, but my aunt is diabetic, so she needed help and that's where I was going to stay at so I could help all the time. I lost a best friend when I was in jail, my wife's birthday I missed," said Sharp.
A spokesperson for the Maryland Judiciary said the complaint contains "significant misrepresentations of facts and materials omissions that are critical to understanding the bail review and pretrial process."
Prince George's County officials have declined comment on pending litigation. Their response to the complaint is due in September.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Katie Barlow's husband is a partner at a law firm providing pro bono counsel in this case. He is not, nor has he ever, been involved in the case.