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.
A 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.”
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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