Why Is Maryland Spending $100 Million To Lock Up Its Youth?

The state of Maryland is planning to spend $100 million on a facility dedicated solely to hold youths charged as adults. This video, part of a multipart report, Race, Youth and Criminal Justice System in Baltimore, has more about the plan.

report from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency (NCCD) (PDF) makes it even more clear why the state’s plan is a misuse of resources.

Hathaway Ferebee, the executive director of the Safe and Sound Campaign, writes that 99 percent of Baltimore youths held in locked detention facilities are African-American. The state of Maryland has already said that the proposed $104 million jail is at least 50 percent larger than needed, opening the question of why so many funds are being allocated. It costs $464 to hold a youth in detention per day; given that the average daily population of Baltimore City youth in detention is 250, the total annual cost is $42 million. Why not save $21 million by building a facility that is no larger than needed and use the rest of the funds for 21,000 summer jobs or 4,200 Little League teams — for programs that could serve Baltimore City youth? The funds could also help to keep open all the city’s swimming pools every day of the summer.

The NCCD report outlines five scenarios that not only counter the state’s projection, but offer strategies to “resist the perpetuation of incarcerating our black youth.”

  • (1) a waiver, or permission, from a judge, to move jurisdiction or control of the youth to the juvenile system.
  • (2) commitment of the youth to detention in a juvenile facility even as the adult system maintains jurisdiction over his or her case.
  • (3) imposition of a mandatory 30-day hearing period (reducing stays from 88 days to 30).
  • (4) a request for processing bail release hearings within two days (reduces detention stay from 19 to two days).
  • (5) granting youths held in the juvenile system the chance to avoid detention or out-of-home placement, which current practices already enable for white young people; eligible youth would be offered counseling, remedial education and an internship.

The first two scenarios do not require additional jail beds for youths charged as adults. Scenarios 3 and 4 shorten a young person’s detention, pending trial. Scenario 5 eliminates the need for bed spaces and, even more, “challenges the unequal treatment of black and white youths.”

The number of youth living in Baltimore has dropped 17 percent since 2000 and the number and rate of crimes reported in Baltimore has dropped one-third in the same time frame. In addition, there has been a 46 percent decrease in the number of youth arrested in Baltimore since 2003.

The NCCD report further says that reducing bed spaces according to these five scenarios “could be achieved while maintaining public safety, reducing costs, and improving outcomes for arrested youth.” Truly, there is compelling evidence to ask why $100 million needs to be spent on a detention center that has already been shown to be too large. Why Maryland still feels that so many funds need to be spent on such a facility raises serious doubts about the state’s motivation for spending so much on something that is simply not needed.

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Photo by s- k-


Michael MacDonald

oh and here's one more fact you should know.

Not only are a disproportionate amount of African American youth incarcerated,
but because of drug prohibition
an even more disproportionate amount of mentally ill people end up in prison because they are 100% times more likely to self-medicate.
On top of that, holding mentally ill people against their will and putting them in isolation is the most detrimental thing you could possibly put any of them through.
I should know seeing as I have borderline and schizophrenia.
Not too many people know about this.
sorry to get off-topic,
but it's really important that everyone knows about all of the injustices that are happening through the justice system so that we can all spread the word about it.

Michael MacDonald

Not only is the fact that they are locking up a disproportionate amount of African American youth disgusting, but locking up small time offenders actually turns them into hardened criminals instead of doing anything to rehabilitate them.
This is especially true in cases of simple drug possession.
This is what all of the viable evidence tells us,
but these kinds of people believe in ideology not evidence
so good luck trying to convince them of common sense.

Linda Indyke
Linda Indyke6 years ago

I live just north of Baltimore city and I have worked for a number of years with high-risk youth. My personal belief is that children/youth don't belong in adult jails. They become at severe high risk to be exploited by adult prisoners and a high majority have already paid a stiff price for their circumstances, coming from backgrounds of abuse and neglect. There are still a significant number of kids in Baltimore who have brain damage from lead paint exposure and they will never really be able to make informed choices, yet are frequently held legally responsible for their choices.
As far as what is available - look what has been taken away from kids. The city government would rather pay millions of dollars for a prison for children than to keep rec centers and city pools open and available. Our priorities are so messed up that these kids who are so in need of psychiatric help aren't able to get it because the mental health system is a revolving door with kids being dumped back into the community as fast as they can slip in the door, with medication after medication being added because the only way the system lets the kid stay in the hospital is if medications are being added or withdrawn.
Some parents get desperate and the kid gets turned over to DSS because families can't afford to pay for mental health care and Value Options exists to manage kids right out of any small amount of care that can be scrounged up. Apparently, Juvenile Services has a bit more money, so if a ki

Patrick F.
Patrick f6 years ago

The way that society is degrading in leaps and bounds make me think that any day now, you will see ignorance parading down the street with pitchforks and torches trying to find witches....

Laurie D.
Laurie D6 years ago

What a frightening concept! They will find a way, I'M SURE to fill all the beds... Business shouldn't be allowed to dictate how children (even bad ones) are handled -- and you KNOW that's what will happen!

Juliet D.
judith sanders6 years ago

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure this out. Look at the business and social connections between the people in office and the companies slated to build and manage the jails and prisons. I'll bet it's the same story of cronyism as in Arizona.

Will Rogers
Will Rogers6 years ago

in England it is known that no more than a thousand youths were involved in the recent summer riots, but so far they have imprisoned more than 3000 youths! of which more than 2000 are black. They prosecute them in nighttime courts without adequate legal representation under emergency laws, and they say they will continue to arrest the youths responsible for another 2 years! Theirs was also a anti government big business protest but theirs could not take place on the steps of St Paul's Cathedral or wall street, because in England they lock up black youths for even looking at a cop in the wrong way! And you would be lucky if you went to jail, the alternative being the mental hospital where they like to 'humble' the strong ones with psychiatric drugs.

Will Rogers
Will Rogers6 years ago

They are not locking up the Youth in general. They are locking up black youths. This is a form of Torture, slow torture that dooms the black youth to a destructive adulthood. It is deliberate and pernicious and systemic and

Hugh W.
.6 years ago

That's our Maryland State government for you. No other government can waste money like they do. Can't address any real problems, but they sure can go through money, whether they are spending it on themselves or for pet projects.

Marie W.
Marie W6 years ago

Maryland has lots of U.S. company as US has highest prison population per capita.