A former Baltimore jail warden and current criminal justice adjunct professor was appointed receiver of the Hinds County Detention Center, U.S. District Court Judge Carlton Reeves ruled Monday evening.
Wendell France Sr. was one of four people Reeves considered for the appointment. He began his role Tuesday but will not take operational control of the jail until Jan. 1, 2023.
“France’s diverse experience in corrections and criminal justice system leadership equip him with the tools to ensure RDC’s (Raymond Detention Center) compliance,” Reeves wrote in his order.
France worked at the now-closed Baltimore City Detention Center in the intake center and in pretrial detention and as deputy secretary of state for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. He was also an officer with the Baltimore Police Department.
France has also worked as a consultant for the U.S. Department of Justice and studied police departments through the Crime Control Act of 1994, according to court documents. He has also investigated and made recommendations on criminal justice, law enforcement and correctional issues in several states.
Currently, he is an adjunct professor at Bowie State University and Coppin State University – both in Maryland.
Reeves appointed France weeks after ordering federal takeover for the jail, which had previously been under a consent decree since 2016 to address unconstitutional conditions.
In his July order, Reeves wrote receivership is needed because there is a risk of unconstitutional harm to jail detainees and staff. In 2021, seven detainees died and there have been other issues such as violence, understaffing, old infrastructure and contraband.
During a Monday news conference, Board of Supervisors President Credell Calhoun said the county would accept the judge’s decision and work with its legal team on next steps.
He added that the board has invested millions of dollars at the jail to make improvements, including getting doors that lock.
Hinds County is appealing the appointment of a receiver and Reeves’ decision to hold the county in contempt before the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Within 120 days of appointment, the receiver will develop an action plan for how to achieve compliance with court orders, according to court documents. Within 75 days, the receiver will also establish a budget for the first year of jail operation.
France will receive $16,000 per month for services performed as jail receiver, according to Reeves’ order.
Reeves asked the county and the DOJ to present candidates for the jail receiver role. The county proposed one person, and the department recommended three, according to court documents.
The DOJ’s other candidates were Susan McCampbell, who has worked as a court monitor at jails and prisons in multiple states, and another person whose name was not mentioned in court records.
The county recommended Frank Shaw, who served as interim administrator of the Hinds County Detention Center.
Reeves rejected Shaw as an option because his experience was in prisons rather than jails, according to court documents. Jails hold people who have not been convicted of a crime, while in prison, people held there have been convicted and are serving a sentence.
He also decided against Shaw because Shaw was in charge of a privately-run prison in Arizona where riots broke out, according to court documents.
Reeves said he interviewed two finalists for receiver and was confident that either could have taken on the role with integrity and been able to secure results for the people of Hinds County.
In a separate Tuesday order, Reeves outlined responsibilities of the receiver, which includes:
- Day-to-day jail operations
- Remedy for unconstitutional conditions by implementing the new injunction order
- Determine the annual budget for the jail, including staff salaries and benefits, medical and mental health services, facility improvements and fire safety
- All executive, management, leadership powers relating to the custody, care and supervision of jail detainees
- The duty to control, oversee, supervise and direct administrative, personnel, financial, accounting, contractual and operational functions of the jail
- The power take over personnel actions of staff who perform services related to jail operation
- The authority to negotiate agreements with Sheriff’s Office, Board of Supervisors, other state, county, city officials or agencies not under the receiver’s direct control
The county and DOJ each outlined what kind of duties and responsibilities they wanted the receiver to have, which Reeves took into consideration when determining which to grant.