Critics Say New Md. Youth Unit Is Like A Supermax


As Maryland prepares to close its adult Supermax prison as a relic, critics are charging that the state has opened a new juvenile version, Capital News Service in Maryland reports. The Maryland Juvenile Justice Coalition complains that a long-awaited, $45 million, Baltimore City Juvenile Justice Center, which opened Oct. 30, has the same large, sterile, hard feel of the Supermax prison and an inadequate outdoor recreation area.

“What we have witnessed here is the construction of a prison,” said Jim McComb of the Maryland Association of Resources for Families and Youth. “It was designed as a prison and built as a prison. It is a prison.”

Prisoners in the supermax faciltity spend 23 hours a day in lock down and lack access to adequate counseling, drug treatment or education. Juvenile justice advocates say detainees at the new Baltimore facility could face similar problems.

The opening of the 244,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art center – which houses classrooms, a computer lab, a booking center, the Baltimore City juvenile court and the juvenile divisions of the state’s attorney and public defender – was seen as a big step toward reducing overcrowding elsewhere and a way to keep juveniles near their families.

The center will house juvenile detainees for an avarge of 26 days before court dates. One of critics’ biggest complaints about the center is its size and structure. It was designed when larger prisons were favored. “This (facility) is architectural malpractice,” said Mark Soler of the Youth Law Center in Washington, D.C.

The state has pledged not to fill the center to capacity, but advocates say there is an “if you build it they will come” mentality. “One thing we know about detention facilities is that they will be filled. . . . It is a very difficult thing for judges and others to resist filling beds,” Soler said.


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