Maryland Public Defender Nancy Forster has asked a judge to close the state’s new juvenile detention facility or order immediate improvements, the Washington Post reports. She cited “systemic” violence and allegations that workers have induced young residents to fight one another. The petition, filed in Baltimore Circuit Court, calls conditions at the $60 million Baltimore City Juvenile Justice Center “unsafe and inhumane.” It describes at least one undisclosed suicide attempt at pretrial facility.
Forster made new allegations of misconduct at the troubled center, which opened less than a year ago. One teenager said staff members start fights by paying kids with cigarettes to fight other kids. Another said he needed four stitches after being punched in the face by a staff member. A third said staff members “would bring in marijuana for kids to smoke.” A judge has scheduled a hearing next week. Answering a legislative committee’s questions about conditions at the center, the department’s secretary, Kenneth C. Montague Jr., said: “We’re trying. This isn’t going to be solved overnight.”