About 100 people rallied at the Baltimore Juvenile Justice Center yesterday in protest of what they say are “nightmarish” and “harmful” conditions at state facilities for incarcerated children, reports the Baltimore Sun. The rally was organized by the Maryland Juvenile Justice Coalition – which includes dozens of youth and family advocates — after reports of troubles at the city juvenile justice center, a $45 million, 144-bed facility that opened in October. Last month, a 17-year-old boy escaped by scaling a three-story wall. In July, detainees barricaded themselves in a recreation area. The center’s first director, Phyllis Hildreth, quit in June.
“The state has a responsibility to turn these kids into individuals that we will not be afraid to meet on the street,” said Cameron Miles of Advocates for Children and Youth. Noting that Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. had made reform of the juvenile justice system a cornerstone of his 2000 campaign, Miles said, “Two years into office, Mr. Ehrlich, where is the reform? “Where are the programs?” Department of Juvenile Services spokeswoman LaWanda Edwards said reforms are under way but will take time. She said a job fair in June attracted more than 1,000 applicants for positions at the city facility, which advocates have said is understaffed, and that background checks for potential employees are under way.