BALTIMORE (WJZ)—No more jails. That’s the message of dozens of people protesting the state’s plan to build a new youth detention facility in downtown Baltimore.
Andrea Fujii explains why the state may go forward with plans anyway.
Several groups have protested the proposed jail, including Occupy Baltimore. But the state may still go forward with their plans.
In 2011, 35,000 Maryland juveniles went to jail. And if they’re charged as adults they’re housed with adults.
But the state is proposing a new jail at Eager and Warden Streets to separate them. That’s something groups like the Safe and Sound Campaign oppose.
“I can’t use a jail to get a college degree. I can’t use a jail to get a good job to support a family,” said Antonio Ellis, city student.
Originally the jail would house 180 beds, but a governor commissioned report found the state didn’t need the jail if they implemented five recommendations.
Jail opponents say those recommendations are doable. But instead the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services proposed a smaller 120 bed facility.
Opponents want non-violent youth offenders rehabilitated, not jailed, making room for the more violent offenders and eliminating the need for a new jail.
“The state could instead use the funds to provide evidence-based alternatives, detention recreation activities and job opportunities to city youth,” said Jack Young, City Council President.
Young people say non-existent opportunities can lead them to crime.
“Things you would never think about doing sometimes become realistic and you actually end up doing those things because that’s the only opportunity left for you to do,” said Vernon Crowffey, city student.
Right now the General Assembly is considering the new $70 million jail. Construction could start next year.
The Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services released a statement saying that alternatives to juvenile detention are a priority, but they aren’t enough for kids charged as adults, and that’s why they’re going forward with plans for the jail.