Maryland officials began removing 45 teen offenders from a military-style “drill academy” yesterday amid allegations of abuse at the center that opened 11 months ago, reports the Baltimore Sun. At least two youngsters or their families complained about harsh treatment at the program for nonviolent offenders operated by the Wicomico County Sheriff’s Office. The mother of one boys said her 16-year-old son told her that officers forced him and others to guzzle a gallon of water at a time. When they vomited, they were forced to “swim,” wallowing in and cleaning up the mess with the clothes they were wearing, she said. The state agency said it was moving all youths held at the academy after the Sun asked about the alleged abuse.
Juvenile Services Secretary Kenneth Montague told the Sun: “We have concerns about what has gone on there and, yes, we are taking our kids out.” A consultant reported “a breakdown in supervision that occurred relatively recently,” he said. In 1999, the state closed several juvenile boot camps in Western Maryland. Last year, the state paid a $4.6 million settlement to youths who had spent time in the camps. The department’s decision to remove the youths comes when several of its programs have come under fire. In mid-September, an independent monitor reported that understaffing at the state’s Baltimore City Juvenile Justice Center was creating dangerous conditions for youths and staff.