Advocates Say Baltimore Youth Held in Dangerous Jail; Officials Deny It


Fights are a regular occurrence among juveniles being held in Baltimore’s adult jail, reports the Baltimore Sun. Attorneys with the Baltimore public defender’s office say the fighting, combined with the lack of medical care, illustrates troubling conditions at the facility. During a three-day power outage in June, juveniles had to sleep on the floor, where some had defecated, youth advocates say. Jail officials dispute the account. For months, defense attorneys have stepped up complaints about what they call dangerous and unsanitary conditions, while seeking transfers for their clients. Advocates stress the importance of the issue, in part because most of the juveniles do not end up with a conviction in adult court.

Circuit Judge Wanda Heard has listened to case after case involving youths charged as adults and awaiting trial, who have told her about poor treatment in the adult jail. “The purpose of this detention is not to make you suffer. It is not to physically abuse you. It is not to make you submit to assaults,” she told one young defendant before agreeing to move him to the juvenile facility. Officials acknowledge that with current resources they struggle to provide adequate services to juveniles, and they are investigating claims that staffers have left youth unattended. They dispute the notion that the facilities are unsafe and understaffed. “We do not have pristine environments in our correctional facilities, but the conditions are not deplorable,” said Wendell “Pete” France, the state commissioner of pretrial detention and services.

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