Update on the Proposed "Youth Jail"

Update on the Proposed "Youth Jail"

Proposed site for new youth jail. Photo By: Reverend Heber Brown, III.
Proposed site for new youth jail. Photo By: Reverend Heber Brown, III.

A decision has come in on a controversy that has taken over Baltimore for months: the planned $70 million youth jail in Baltimore. The jail is no longer going to be built. Instead they plan on renovating a smaller facility for the purpose of housing youth that were incarcerated for violent crimes. This turn of events still comes with strong opinions, yet the voices of those that were protesting the new youth jail are somewhat quelled.

Officials announced last week youths charged as adults in violent crimes would now be placed in a repurposed pre-release center building at Eager Street and Greenmount Avenue. That is the plan at least, as long as it is passed by the Baltimore General Assembly.

A jail, as is the Baltimore City Detention Center, is differentiated from a prison as a place that those accused of crimes await trial or await bail. These types of facilities have fewer amenities as they are not meant to detain people for long periods of time. Whereas prisons have more commodities such as education centers, churches, gyms, social areas, because they are housing people who have actually been charged of a crime and thus having a sentence.

So the youth that are in the BCDC have not even gone to trial yet, and could be found innocent, yet are interrupting schedules and structures that are meant to aide them in staying out of jail such as school and separating them from their families.

Juveniles accounted for 13.7 percent of all violent crime arrests and 22.5 percent of all property crime arrests in 2010, according to the FBI Uniform Crime Reports.[1]

While Governor Martin O’ Malley had stated to numerous media outlets that the youth jail would house the adolescents more comfortably, he failed to mention that the main problem in BCDC were frequent assaults and the small size of the building.

Also O’ Malley was gung-ho for fleshing out a plan to incarcerate the youth charged with these crimes, yet hadn’t proposed anything as a prevention, or stated the fact that these youth are in jail is a problem in and of itself.

Known juvenile offenders were involved in at least 766 murders in the U.S. in 2010, representing about 8% of all known murder offenders.

Advocates for Children and Youth and members of the Stop the Youth Jail Alliance led discussions with the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services (DJS), Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (DPSCS), and the General Assembly about alternative solutions. DJS and DPSCS got approval from O’ Malley for the proposal and now they have to wait to hear from the General Assembly.

So now, with plans for the renovated facility and to send more teens to treatment programs, they are still planning to spend about $70 million. Hopefully this will set the stage for fixing a bigger problem and preventing teens from returning.

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[1] https://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2010/crime-in-the...

Brandi Bottalico is currently a junior at Towson University and studies journalism and public relations. She is the associate news editor for the campus newspaper The Towerlight. Bottalico has been published on the Washington Post education blog by Valerie Strauss. Before attending Towson, she lived in Prince George's County, did several Washington Post workshops and participated in many journalism conferences. Outside of writing and editing she is interested in photography and film. After graduation Bottalico hopes to receive a job in journalism.