Maryland's jails are wholly inappropriate places for youth. While some children, particularly those accused of committing violent offenses, may need to be detained pending trial, they do not belong in these facilities. These jails subject youth to the risk of violence at the hands of other juveniles and, in some facilities, from adult detainees. Generally, these institutions, with their imposing physical plants designed to house adults for short periods of time, are simply unprepared to handle juvenile detainees. Our review raised questions about the extent to which staff receive specialized training in adolescent development and behavior management, training which one detention center concluded would make a positive contribution to maintaining discipline and order among youth. Serious deficiencies in the amount of education provided, a dearth of age-appropriate recreational and other programming activities, and concerns that detained youth are not receiving enough to eat to meet their developmental needs contributed to our conclusion that Maryland's adult detention centers are not equipped to address the needs of youth.
This conclusion is particularly compelling with regard to the Baltimore City Detention Center. Youth in Baltimore are housed in abysmal conditions. They face daily risks to their personal safety, at times from fights-"square dances"-condoned and even organized by corrections officers. Disciplinary measures appeared at times to be arbitrary and excessive, with many adolescents receiving the maximum sanction of ninety days of segregation. In addition, jail staff frequently imposed restrictions which were ostensibly justified by security concerns but obviously punitive in nature. Particularly troubling in this regard were the extensive use of "lockdowns," extended periods of cell confinement, usually imposed on entire sections of the jail, and the practice of the detention center commissioner to place some youth on "supermax," essentially a decree that the youth in question would spend their entire period of pretrial detention in administrative segregation.
The most expedient course of action to eliminate these abuses is to put an end to the practice of detaining youth in adult jails. The alternative, undertaking a series of efforts to correct abuses at each of Maryland's twenty-four adult jails, is likely to be time-consuming and expensive, especially in view of the number and scope of the human rights violations documented in this report.
Until the practice of placing children in adult detention facilities is ended, Maryland's county jail administrations and the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services must ensure that conditions of confinement for youth in Maryland's jails comply with state and federal law and meet international standards. In particular, jails should offer general education and special education classes that comply with state and federal law and age-appropriate medical andmental health services. For their part, the courts should minimize periods of pretrial detention by expediting cases in which a juvenile defendant is detained. In order to make it possible for the courts to handle such cases expeditiously, the Maryland General Assembly should increase its support for public counsel for those children who cannot afford their own attorneys.
These problems can be solved. With no more than 300 youth in detention at any given time, juveniles in Maryland's jails are a fraction of the total population. By acting in cooperation, state and local agencies can ensure compliance with international standards and secure the safety and well-being of children in detention.