Safety complaints result in DOJ visit to Baltimore city jail

The United States Department of Justice sent monitors to visit the Baltimore City Detention Center last Wednesday. The visit underscores the unique needs of juvenile criminal defendants.

Defense attorneys, youth advocates, and even legislators have raised consistent complaints about conditions for juvenile inmates at the jail. Baltimore houses some minors at this facility when it needs to hold juveniles on adult charges. Unsurprisingly, detention of juvenile defendants in an adult population has raised safety concerns.

For example, defense attorneys successfully sought an order from a city judge to move some juveniles to another facility, the Juvenile Justice Center. The attorneys claimed that adult detainees attacked juveniles, that the facility lacked appropriate supervision, and that juveniles did not receive medical care. The jail currently houses 32 juveniles in dormitory-style rooms.

State officials claim that the safety concerns are baseless and the Department of Justice monitors have not yet disclosed their findings after the tour. However, the Baltimore City Detention Center has a history of apparent compliance issues. The Department of Justice also visited the facility in November 2010 and raised concerns about whether the jail had met requirements established in 2007.

The stakes are very high for juveniles facing criminal accusations. A criminal record can derail a young person’s career prospects from an early age and incarceration can raise serious safety concerns.

Source: Baltimore Sun, “U.S. Justice Department tours Baltimore jail on Wednesday,” Justin Fenton, Aug. 15, 2012