Plans For New Youth Detention Center Scrapped Due To Fewer Young Offenders

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Alex DeMetrick has been a general assignment reporter with WJZ...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ)—Juveniles charged as adults are currently kept in the same Baltimore jail as adults, but that is about to change.

Alex DeMetrick reports it won’t take building a new jail from scratch to do it.

In Baltimore’s adult jail, a separate block is reserved for juveniles arrested for crimes so violent they are charged as adults.

For years, it was overcrowded. But then something happened.

“Less crime means lower juvenile population for both us and juvenile services,” said Gary Maynard, Secretary of Public Safety & Correction.

Six years ago, there were 120 juvenile inmates every day. Today that number stands at 58 inmates, in large measure because the number of juveniles charged with murder has dropped by 50 percent.

As a result, plans to turn a vacant lot into a 120-bed jail for adult-charged juveniles have now been scrapped. Instead, part of the city’s pre-release facility will be renovated to house those in adult jail.

“For us, renovating an existing facility will help safely and securely accommodate youth charged as adults, and in a way that best serves them,” Maynard said.

They’ll have single rooms instead of packed cells, with access to education, vocational and mental health facilities.

For community groups who spent years fighting a new, 120-bed juvenile jail, it’s a big day.

“I’m really excited.  You gotta be,” said Nicole Cheatom, Baltimore Algebra Project.

But not every community group working on this issue thinks a renovated facility is the best way to spend money.

“We just really hope and pray that the state would invest as much money into opportunity as they do locking up primarily African-American kids,” said Tyrone Barnwell, Safe & Sound Campaign.

By scrapping a new jail with a smaller renovated facility, Maryland saves $35 million in construction costs.

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