© 2021 WYPR
Fall 2021 Header
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

How Is Solitary Confinement Used On Teenagers Charged As Adults In Maryland?

state_pen___bcdc.jpg
groupuscule / Wikimedia Commons
/

Federal prosecutors have warned Maryland corrections officials to fix serious problems in how juveniles are treated at the Baltimore City Detention Center -- specifically, the prosecutors said teenagers awaiting trial on adult charges are often held in solitary confinement for weeks or months, putting the youth at risk for behavioral or mental problems. The prosecutors said there have been improvements at the detention center, but that its disciplinary process remains “seriously flawed”, its staff not adequately trained, and its treatment and programming for the young people in its control, very limited.

The Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, which runs the detention center, responded with a statement that says, in part, “The Department takes these issues very seriously, and is committed to drastically improving the overall environment for juveniles charged as adults and committed to our care.” But, the department declined to discuss the situation with us.

We are going to discuss it with Kara Aanenson, director of advocacy for the Just Kids Partnership, a non-profit that campaigns to change conditions for youth charged as adults in Maryland.

Here's the full statement that the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services sent to Maryland Morning:

"Secretary Moyer, who has been on the job for nine weeks, has made continuing to improve conditions of confinement for juveniles at BCDC a top priority. In fact, the DOJ has recognized the improvements DPSCS has made over the last several years.

DPSCS has been working closely with the Department of Juvenile Services (DJS) in further improving the services and programming for juveniles. Already in the works is a special training program for BCDC officers who deal with juveniles. In fact, 30 of our officers recently completed that training program, which included subject areas such as crisis prevention, handling trauma, and social development.

We have worked with DJS and our criminal justice partners to dramatically reduce the number of juveniles housed in our facility. Where once, more than 100 youth were housed there, now fewer than 20 remain.

The department is also converting a former pre-release facility nearby into a center that will house only juveniles. When completed, this juvenile facility will have ample program space, including better classroom facilities and an improved health services area, and will create a much better environment for the teenagers. In the meantime, we have moved juveniles into a special part of the BCDC facility which features a dormitory setting rather than cells.

The Eager Street Academy is an actual public school within the confines of the correctional facility, and the teenagers are required to attend school every day. Other programming and activities are being developed.

The Department takes these issues very seriously, and is committed to drastically improving the overall environment for juveniles charged as adults and committed to our care."

Sheilah Kast is the host of On The Record, Monday-Friday, 9:30-10:00 am.