The number of delinquent youths incarcerated at Maryland’s Cheltenham Youth Facility has been cut by more than half in the last year, reports the Washington Post. Maryland officials cite the cut as a worthwhile reform of the troubled detention center.
About 108 youths are housed at Cheltenham, near Washington, D.C., down from 265 in November 2002, reported Kenneth C. Montague Jr., secretary of the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services. Three of its seven detention “cottages” have been shut down in the last seven months.
Cheltenham, a detention center since the 19th century, has been criticized for being unclean, outdated, and overcrowded. Guards have been accused of beating teenagers, and a riot broke out last March. The U.S. Justice Department is investigating conditions.
“The kids who still remain at Cheltenham are not a bit safer than they were a year ago. They are being housed in a place that is just unconscionable,” said James P. McComb of the Maryland Association of Resources for Families and Youth.
Cheltenham historically has been a pretrial facility, but judges and justice officials have been sending children there for long periods of time, which it was not designed for. Montague has asked judges to send teens there only if they are serious threats to community safety or flight risks. “We have identified alternatives to detention,” he said. “It could be electronic monitoring or house arrest.”