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The County is taking a number of actions to keep residents safe and minimize the spread of COVID-19. Find status information for County operations and services.

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Keyword: detention center

Department Continuing to Ensure Proper Precautions to Protect Personnel and Inmates

Baltimore County officials today announced that an inmate in the Baltimore County Department of Corrections has tested positive for COVID-19. The individual is an African-American male in their 50s who is not currently presenting symptoms and is in quarantine.

The Baltimore County Department of Corrections is coordinating with the Department of Health to lead a contact trace investigation to determine whether any other staff or inmates may have had contact with the individual who tested positive.

“Ensuring the health, safety and wellbeing of both our professional and dedicated staff and all those at our detention center continues to be our top priority as we navigate this global pandemic,” said Baltimore County Department of Corrections Director Gail M. Watts. “We will continue to follow the recommendations of federal, state, and local health officials and aggressively adopt public health best practices as we respond to this rapidly evolving crisis.”

The Department has already implemented a number of actions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including:

  • Following CDC guidelines for deep-cleaning and sanitizing areas and equipment, and daily disinfecting and cleaning “high-touch” areas throughout the facility.

  • Appropriate use of personal protective equipment and daily “healthy check-ins” for all employees to ensure anyone with symptoms of illness is sent home.

  • Minimizing all unnecessary movement except for critical efforts, including medical treatment and bail reviews.

  • Suspending inmate family and friend visitation and authorizing limited free calling time for inmates.

  • Providing increased education such as, showing COVID-19 informational videos in processing and housing units, placing posters designed by the CDC in all inmate housing areas, and posting increased hand-washing signage.

The impacted individual will remain in the medical unit with continued monitoring for the recommended CDC period. Out of an abundance of caution, the individual’s housing unit is under a quarantine protocol.

The Baltimore County Health Department, in coordination with state health officials, will continue to take steps to ensure all proper precautions are being taken to protect Department personnel and other inmates.

28-Year Department Veteran Has Risen Through the Ranks 

County Executive Kevin Kamenetz announced that he is recommending Gail Watts to be promoted to lead the Baltimore County Department of Corrections (BCDC). Watts, a 28-year veteran of the department and a decorated Army veteran, is currently serving as Acting Director, pending the retirement of Director Deborah Richardson. Her promotion to Director will require County Council approval.

“Gail Watts is a natural leader who balances strong operational discipline with a compassionate people-centered approach that inspires her staff to excel, while at the same time ensuring that the people incarcerated at our detention center have the opportunity to turn their lives around through education, mental health and substance abuse treatment and vocational training,” Kamenetz said. He noted that when Watts was named BCDC employee of the year in 2008, the vote among all department staff was unanimous.

Watts is responsible for overseeing the daily operations of the County Detention Center, including programs, security, building operations, budget and finance, staff training and support service contracts. She oversaw the Department’s transition to direct supervision and was instrumental in overhauling the facility’s mental health unit. She started in the Department in September 1990 as a Correctional Officer and served in various positions of increasing responsibility in which she managed work release and home detention programs, staff training, inmate employment, staffing and policy analysis, staff disciplinary procedures, regulatory compliance, and more.

Watts earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Touro University in California and is pursuing her master’s degree in youth and family counseling at St. Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore, with an expected graduation date next fall. She served in the United States Army for 30 years, specializing in mission readiness and logistics, and received meritorious service medals for both of her two deployments to Kuwait where she conducted military missions in Iraq and Afghanistan in support of the war on terrorism.

“I am honored to be asked to take on this new leadership role and continue to achieve the standards of excellence we are proud to maintain at Baltimore County Department of Corrections,” said Watts.

Director Deborah Richardson Retiring After 38 Years in the Corrections Field

Deborah Richardson will retire from her role as Director on October 13. During her 15 year tenure with Baltimore County, she led the team responsible for coordinating the consolidation and expansion of the County’s correctional facilities. She has been integral in the process of developing policies and procedures to effectively administer this state-of-the art direct supervision facility. 

“I have tremendous respect for Deborah Richardson and sincerely commend for her leadership, which has helped to make our detention center one of the most effective and well-managed facilities in the region,” Kamenetz said. “I wish her all the best in her well-deserved retirement.”

Revised September 11, 2017