Maryland has stopped placing youths under 13 at the state’s detention center at Cheltenham after advocates expressed concern about the youngsters’ well-being when placed with older — and often tougher — boys, says the Baltimore Sun. Most of the younger boys are being sent instead to a Baltimore shelter care facility for juveniles who need supervision but are not considered dangerous. They receive education and counseling while they await a court hearing or placement to a treatment facility.
The Sun reported in June that the Cheltenham Youth Facility violated department standards last year by assigning a roommate to a 10-year-old sex offender who should have been housed alone. The offender and his 11-year-old roommate were later found “engaging in a sexual act while locked in their bedroom” on Thanksgiving Day. Some advocates and legislators said they had not previously known that children that young were being assigned to Cheltenham.
Juvenile Services Secretary Kenneth C. Montague said he has problems “with the whole idea of having a 12-year-old incarcerated in a detention facility. These kids are still learning about themselves.” Some state legislators who toured Cheltenham yesterday said they worried that preteens might be prey for older boys at the facility, which typically includes 17-year-olds.
“This doesn’t mean we’re not going to still have the occasional [preteen] kid at Cheltenham that can’t be managed somewhere else,” said Vickie Colter, a department deputy secretary. “But, for the most part, we’re going to try to not have little kids here.”