Some Maryland legislators, frustrated by a lack of progress in improving the state juvenile justice system, have written legislation aimed at prodding Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. into action, reports the Washington Post. Delgate Robert Zirkin of Baltimore County) is sponsoring legislation that would shut down aging juvenile halls and overhaul educational programs for young offenders. “The state legislature needs to take these [issues] by the horns right now. This is not something to wait for the executive branch on,” he said. A proposal introduced yesterday by Sen. Brian E. Frosh would set a December deadline for the administration to come up with plans for moving young offenders from large, gloomy detention centers into community-based units.
Kenneth C. Montague Jr., Ehrlich’s juvenile services chief, said he supports the ideas being pushed by lawmakers but cannot change a decades-old bureaucracy in a year. Running for office in 2002, Republican Ehrlich hammered the former Democratic administration for not doing enough to fix a system that handles more than 45,000 youths annually. He presented a 40-page blueprint that called for smaller detention facilities, more drug treatment options and more staff involvement to improve a system marked by abuse, neglect, and a high recidivism rate.
This year, Ehrlich did not mention the issue in his State of the State address. “This is a crisis,” said Bart Lubow, director of a program for at-risk youth at the Annie E. Casey Foundation. “This should be viewed as an emergency, and that is why I am impatient.”