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Baltimore County leaders dispute accusations about jail conditions for youth

Outside the Baltimore County Detention Center.
Kaitlin Newman The Baltimore Banner
Outside the Baltimore County Detention Center.

Baltimore County leaders say they are investigating conditions and practices at the county jail after the Maryland Office of the Public Defender decried the jail’s treatment of juveniles in a letter last week.

In her March 6 letter, Deborah St. Jean, director of the public defender’s Juvenile Protection Division, said youth at the Baltimore County Detention Center face deplorable conditions, such as rodent-infested cells and a lack of adequate access to education and medical care.

But in a reply sent Thursday, county Department of Corrections director Walt Pesterfield wrote, “in many cases, conditions were not found to be as described in your letter.”

County Executive Johnny Olszewski made similar comments in an interview this week.

“There are some elements of the letter that are true, and we continue to address those,” Olszewski said. “There are some instances where the reality on the ground is inconsistent with what's accused in the letter, and there are some places where there's some truth to the concerns that were raised, but not necessarily to the degree alleged.”

Olszewski said the county’s deputy administrator for public safety, Rebecca Young, went to the jail after he received St. Jean’s letter. Olszewski plans to visit the jail himself in the coming days.

Pesterfield said county leaders plan to complete their investigation of conditions at the jail within the next month.

Reporter John Lee contributed reporting.

Rachel Baye is a senior reporter and editor in WYPR's newsroom.
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