Maryland starts “services” approach for juveniles

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Maryland will change the name of its agency that handles juvenile offenders from the Department of Juvenile Jusice to the Department of Juvenile Services. State legislators also approved proposals by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. to expand drug court and mental health services for juvenile offenders, to improve education in juvenile detention facilities and to create an office to study the “overrepresentation” of minorities in the juvenile system, the Washington Post reports.

Ehrlich, a Republican, has promised to end scandal and mismanagement in the agency. He said yesterday that he is committed to proving that even children who commit violent crimes are “savable.” The name change, he said, “represents a new approach to the problems of juvenile offenders, one that emphasizes a positive and constructive plan for each and every child in our care.”

Former Gov. Parris N. Glendening and Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend had stressed tougher punishment of juveniles, but they closed “boot camps” in 2000 after the Baltimore Sun reported that guards routinely beat young inmates. The U.S. Justice Department is investigating conditions at the state’s juvenile facilities.

The Baltimore Sun reported that Ehrlich criticized the trend of transferring many youthful offenders into the adult penal system: “To the extent you waive these ‘savables’ into the adult system, it’s a bad deal for society and certainly a bad deal for taxpayers.”


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