The Baltimore City Juvenile Justice Center is so understaffed that it poses a serious threat to the safety of youths held there and to staff who supervise them, according to a report released yesterday. The report by the Office of the Independent Juvenile Justice Monitor portrays an institution in chaos – with youths attacking each other and staff, setting fires, climbing walls to escape and attempting suicide, reports the Baltimore Sun. The center, which is staffed for 48 youths, held 106 when the monitor’s office visited last month. The office was established to independently monitor conditions in Maryland’s chronically troubled juvenile facilities.
The report says youths are sometimes kept in their cells for extended periods, especially on weekends, because of inadequate staffing. The center, operated by the state of Maryland, is a juvenile jail that holds youths arrested in Baltimore while they await court hearings. According to the report, their lawyers and other advocates are afraid to meet with them there. A spokeswoman for the state Department of Juvenile Services said the agency disputes some of the monitor’s findings, but agrees the Baltimore center is understaffed.