Contact with the wider community-through visits, telephone calls, correspondence, and access to books and other publications-can be crucial to the well-being of detained children. In particular, regular contact with family members and friends can be a significant positive factor in preparing juveniles for their eventual return to society. In general, Maryland's jails provided opportunities for contact with the outside world that met international standards. However, those placed on disciplinary segregation are frequently denied visits, phone calls, and other contacts with the wider community, restrictions which may last for up to ninety days or even longer.
Each of the jails visited by Human Rights Watch allow most inmates to receive visits at least once each week and generally comply with international standards. Most children reported that their visitors have no problems getting access to the jails. In many facilities, however, children placed on administrative segregation or otherwise disciplined are not allowed to see their family members, a practice which violates international standards.105
Such restrictions on visitation were particularly evident in the Baltimore City Detention Center. In Baltimore, children given loss of privileges and placed in administrative segregation are not permitted to receive any visits. The prohibition on visits can last ninety days or even longer. In addition, children in the general population may be denied visits during "lockdown" periods, periods of cell confinement that have lasted as long as six weeks at a stretch.
In addition, we heard from a Montgomery County detainee who told us that he was denied all visits while on lockdown. "I haven't seen my family since I came here," said James S., age seventeen, who had been in the detention center for four-and-a-half months. He described himself as "depressed most of the time" and added, "I overreact to the situation, to being locked down."106
We were also concerned to learn that the Frederick County Detention Center restricts visits to twenty minutes each, although it allows detainees to receive visits twice per week. "We have to limit the length of visits because of the number ofpeople," Rob Green, the detention center's warden, told us. "Actually, twenty-minute visits exceed the standards." He stated that the jail considers exceptions to the twenty-minute limit when family members travel long distances. "If they're traveling in excess of 200 miles, they can request extended visits. We'll consider doubling the visits in that case," he said. He estimated that the jail granted one extended visit per month on average.107
A number of children felt that they were not permitted enough time to talk with their family members. Jermaine C., who received half-hour visits while detained in Prince George's County, told us, "Thirty minutes is a problem for my family members and me too. You don't get to talk about nothing. By the time you get to talking, they come in and make you stop."108
To their credit, some jails allow visits more frequently than the international standard, which calls for a minimum of one per week. Thomas C., an eighteen-year-old who had spent nineteen months at the Montgomery County Detention Center, reported that he had visits twice per week and could see up to four people at a time.109 Anthony P. and Jermaine C., detained in Prince George's County, told us that male juveniles were permitted half-hour visits every morning; family members who travel lengthy distances to visit are permitted more time. Diane S. and Jenile L., interviewed separately by different Human Rights Watch representatives, each stated that they were allowed two thirty-minute visits each week.110
One innovative feature of the Montgomery County's Youthful Offender Unit is that youth in the unit are permitted contact visits with family members once each month and, in addition, during parent/detainee programs. The children we interviewed appeared to place a high value on the contact visits. "You can actually touch your parents," said Bruce W. "They come in, and a counselor tells them how your progress has been."111 Nestor S., a Prince George's County detainee who, like all other juveniles in that jail, did not receive contact visits, remarked, "The visits are okay, but I think having the glass between you is a problem. You got these little boxes to talk through. You can only say so much with the glass between you."112 Similarly, Peter B., a Washington County detainee, told us that he wishedthat he did not have to visit with his family members through a glass partition. Ron P., another Washington County detainee, added, "It's loud. It's very loud. People yell. You can't hardly hear on them little phones."113
Because of the importance of visits by family members and others, Maryland's jails should consider increasing the number and length of visits for children in detention. Jails should also consider permitting juveniles to have contact visits with family members where such visits can be conducted in a supervised setting and as part of an educational or other organized program. In accordance with international standards, jails should never punish children by prohibiting visits with family members.
While most children held in the jails' general population told Human Rights Watch researchers that they had few problems making phone calls, those placed on disciplinary status are often denied telephone access for extended periods of time.
In Baltimore, for example, children placed on administrative segregation with "loss of privileges" are routinely denied phone calls their period of confinement, up to ninety days per charge. Indeed, a state hearing officer assigned to the detention center told Human Rights Watch that "loss of privileges," including loss of telephone access, may be extended beyond the ninety-day maximum for segregation.114
Baltimore also restricts telephone access when the general population sections are placed on "lockdown," an extended period of cell confinement. At the time of our May 1999 visit, Baltimore's L Section had been locked down for six weeks; the jail denied children access to the telephones for most of the lockdown period, only permitting phone calls several days before our visit.115 Similarly, Jermaine C. reported that guards in Prince George's County sometimes restricted phone access as punishment.116
In addition to denying children the opportunity to maintain ties with family members and friends, restrictions on phone use allow abuses to go unreported and generally foster an atmosphere of distrust among detainees. Several children attributed prohibitions on phone access to a desire on the part of guards to evade scrutiny. Michele R. commented, "When you on lock, C.O.'s don't want youcalling home, especially if there be fighting with the C.O.'s or the C.O.'s be banking [hitting] people. It's because of the simple fact of that."117
As with visitation, telephone access should not be denied outright as a form of punishment or for any other reason. Even when juveniles are placed on "loss of privileges" or similar disciplinary status, they should have the right to place telephone calls at least twice each week, in conformity with international standards.118
Access to the Library
In many of the facilities we visited, we found that children are not routinely given access to jail libraries, in contravention of international standards.119 "It's hard to get books," said Ron P., held in Washington County. "It's only a certain number of books in the pod. I think there's a library, but I haven't been to it." "Ain't no books unless the inmates have them," Sam H. confirmed. "I usually borrow them from somebody." Asked if the jail had a library, he responded, "I think so. I haven't seen it."120
We heard similar complaints from children in Prince George's County. Anthony P.told us that the procedure is that those who want to visit the library fill out a request. Recently, he told us, twelve people put in requests, but jail staff told them that they couldn't accomodate that many people. He reported that he has made three requests to visit the library; each was returned to him. He stated that no one in the juvenile unit has been to the library.121
Michelle R., held in Baltimore, told us, "The adults are allowed to go to the library but we're not. We keep asking to go, but they say no reason for us to go. They act like we can't read. When we go to school we allowed to get books. I've heard somebody supposed to come up from the library and ask us do we want anything, but don't nobody ask us nothing."122
105 The U.N. Rules for the Protection of Juveniles calls upon detention facilities to allow juveniles to have visits at least once per week and forbids the denial of contact with family members as punishment or for any other purpose. See U.N. Rules for the Protection of Juveniles, Articles 60, 67.
106 Human Rights Watch interview, Montgomery County Detention Center, July 30, 1998.
107 Human Rights Watch interview with Rob Green, warden, Frederick County Detention Center, July 21, 1998.
108 Human Rights Watch interview, P.G. County Correctional Center, July 23, 1998.
109 Human Rights Watch interview, Montgomery County Detention Center, July 30, 1998.
110 Human Rights Watch interviews, P.G. County Correctional Center, July 23, 1998.
111 Human Rights Watch interview, Montgomery County Detention Center, July 30, 1998.
112 Human Rights Watch interview, P.G. County Correctional Center, July 23, 1998.
113 Human Rights Watch interviews, Washington County Detention Center, July 22, 1998.
114 Human Rights Watch interview with Fred Nastri, hearing officer, Baltimore City Detention Center, May 11, 1999.
115 Human Rights Watch interview, Baltimore City Detention Center, May 11, 1999.
116 Human Rights Watch interview, P.G. County Correctional Center, July 23, 1998.
117 Human Rights Watch interview, Baltimore City Detention Center, February 10, 1999.
118 See U.N. Rules for the Protection of Juveniles, Article 61.
119 Article 41 of the U.N. Rules for the Protection of Juveniles provides that "[e]very detention facility should provide access to a library that is adequately stocked with both instructional and recreational books and periodicals suitable for the juveniles, who should be encouraged and enabled to make full use of it."
120 Human Rights Watch interviews, Washington County Detention Center, July 22, 1998.
121 Human Rights Watch interview, P.G. County Correctional Center, July 23, 1998.
122 Human Rights Watch interview, Baltimore City Detention Center, February 10, 1999.