After years of community opposition, Maryland officials abandoned plans to build a new Baltimore jail for juveniles charged as adults, citing declines in youth crimes as they unveiled a plan to send more teens to treatment programs and renovate a smaller facility for defendants in violent offenses, the Baltimore Sun reports. The $73 million plan, which needs approval from the General Assembly, lays the groundwork for a shift in the state’s approach to teen crime in Baltimore.
The state has faced persistent criticism over existing conditions for young defendants, but a proposal to build a new facility for juveniles raised concern that officials were not doing enough to deter children from lives of violence. Some opponents of the youth jail said the increased focus on rehabilitation would help make the city safer. “For me, this is a tremendous victory,” said Angela Conyers Johnese of Advocates for Children and Youth. “Looking back, we felt we could never get to this point, that so many dollars had been budgeted for the jail, that there was nothing the community could do, that it was a done deal.” Roughly 50 juveniles charged as adults — facing charges for crimes such as assault, carjacking and murder — are incarcerated daily along with the city’s adult offenders while they await trial. By law, the populations must be kept separate, but the state is under pressure from the federal government to improve conditions for the juveniles.