SUICIDES, ICE COOPERATION, AND RACISM ALLEGATIONS AT MARYLAND JAIL
By Lauren Gill, The appeal
The night before Marlyn Barnes died, he spoke with another man through his cell door at Maryland’s Harford County Detention Center, located just northeast of Baltimore. He had a bail hearing the next day, and he was nervous.
On April 10, Barnes returned from the hearing looking visibly upset, according to Saiquan Brown, who was in a holding cell across from him. Brown then left for his hour of recreation. Upon his return, a guard yelled for him to get back into his cell. A correctional officer had found Barnes—who was denied bond earlier that day—in his cell, unresponsive, with a sheet around his neck.
Just three weeks later, Tommy Wayne Pardew Sr. also hanged himself in his cell while on suicide watch.
Additionally, one of Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler’s deputies is under fire for allegedly detaining a Black attorney on the basis of race. And Gahler—an outspoken supporter of President Trump’s proposed border wall—has enrolled his office in one of ICE’s most controversial federal immigration programs.
Two suicides in three weeks
Before the deaths of Barnes and Pardew, no one had died by suicide at the jail since 2013. The investigation into Pardew’s death has been closed while the Barnes investigation continues.
Despite the state’s bail reform efforts in recent years, Barnes, a father of five from Gwynn Oak, Maryland, was held without bond on first- and second-degree assault charges and violating a protective order. In 2017, the Maryland Court of Appeals enacted a rule aimed at reducing the number of people held in jail pretrial because they could not afford to purchase their release. At least one study shows the law has had the unintended consequence of an increase in judges refusing to set bail: There was an 11.6 percent increase in defendants held without bail at their first bail hearing between July 2017 and November 2017, according to a Princeton University study.
Pardew was not held pretrial, however. When he died, he was on the seventh day of a 26-day sentence for violating probation for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Erik Roskes, a forensic psychiatrist who worked in the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said jail suicides can be difficult to predict. “You can foresee it if you can identify people who are high risk versus low risk by understanding people’s history by interacting with people who know them.” He added, “Any type of court proceeding could be a high-risk period.”
Upon entry to the jail, Pardew and Barnes were assessed by representatives from health care contractor Prime Care Medical, which has 70 sites in five states. Pardew was flagged as having “suicidal ideations” and placed on suicide watch, according to Cristie Hopkins, a spokesperson for the sheriff’s office. It’s unclear how he was able to hang himself in the jail.