Previous PageTable Of ContentsNext Page

Recent Reports 
 Support HRW 
About HRW
Site Map

Human Rights Watch - Home Page


Particularly in the Baltimore City Detention Center, we heard frequent complaints from children that they were punished arbitrarily or excessively. Our review of disciplinary records in that jail found many instances in which children were given lengthy periods of segregation, often with loss of visits and other privileges, for relatively minor offenses. In many more serious cases, we were concerned to find that disciplinary hearing officers routinely gave juveniles the maximum sanction possible, ninety days in segregation per charge, and in some cases directed youth to serve their sanctions consecutively.

Also in Baltimore, we found that the jail frequently locked down entire sections, sometimes the entire facility, for days or even weeks after an escape or fight. When such measures do not serve an immediate security rationale, they amount to punishment and may violate international law and the U.S. Constitution. Moreover, such extended lockdowns constitute collective punishments, explicitly forbidden by international standards.223

In all facilities, specialized training is needed: offered at regular intervals, such training would enable corrections officers to tailor their behavior management techniques to adolescents and might well reduce the number of disciplinary offenses involving juveniles.

Notice of the Rules

As a preliminary matter, we found that many children reported that they had never seen a copy of their institution's rules; those who had received printed copies could not explain most of the rules in their own words.224 Ron P., sixteen, told us that he had never seen a copy of the Washington County Detention Center's rules. "You're supposed to get a handbook, but I didn't get one. I just asked questions. You learn from other people's mistakes, too." When we asked him how he knew about the handbook, he replied, "Everybody else had one. I asked them about getting one, and they said they'd get back to me, but they never did. Now I've just been here long enough to know the rules."225

In Montgomery County, however, William M., age sixteen, told us that he was given an orientation by the counselors when he entered the Youthful Offender Unit. "The rules are on the wall, too, right over there," he added, pointing.226

Our discussions with officials at the Baltimore City Detention Center raised questions about the adequacy of the notice of the offenses with which youth may be charged and the sanctions that these offenses may carry. James L. Drewery, the security chief for the Baltimore City Detention Center, told our researchers that the list of offenses and sanctions was "in the library" and that youth "have access" to it.227 In fact, the only list the jail staff was able to show our researchers was on the back of the administrative segregation charging form; that list included all offenses but did not give the possible sanctions for each. Moreover, the general population had been on lockdown for much of the six months preceding our May 1999 visit. Most of the children with whom our researchers spoke told us that they had never been to the library; the few who had been there stated that they had not gone to the library in a very long time.228 Even if children had "access" to the library, as Mr. Drewery asserted, the placement of a list somewhere in the library hardly constitutes fair notice of particular offenses and possible sanctions.

In addition, several of the violations at the Baltimore City Detention Center are vague, allowing the hearing officer enormous discretion to decide whether the inmate is guilty. The classification of seriousness of other offenses appears to be arbitrary. Fred Nastri, one of fifteen hearing officers for the state of Maryland, told us, for example, that "masturbation" and "indecent exposure" are Category One offenses, grouped with offenses such as assault and battery on staff or the use of a weapon. 229 Neither offense seems especially serious, certainly not on par withassault or weapons charges. Drug offenses, listed in Category Two, and possession of contraband, Category Three, would appear to be much more dangerous.

Disciplinary Hearings

Fred Nastri told us that disciplinary hearings are held regularly and that inmates brought up on disciplinary charges ("ticketed") are entitled to have an inmate represent them and may call witnesses. According to Nastri, all of the hearing officers have at least undergraduate degrees and ten of the fifteen officers have master's degrees.230 Our review of the files of all children held in administrative segregration found that the hearing officers' decisions are actively reviewed by an administrator at the facility. In some cases, the review overturned the hearing officer's decision.

Despite these positive aspects of the disciplinary process, we noted several serious concerns. Once children are charged, hearing officers have a great deal of discretion to impose long terms of disciplinary segregation, up to ninety days for a single violation. Mr. Nastri told us that hearing officers apply sanctions by following written sentencing guidelines. He was not able to produce a copy of these guidelines, however. In addition, although he described himself as a "very experienced" hearing officer, he could not tell us how much time would be the standard sanction for a fight between youth, a threat made to a guard, or other specific examples we offered him.231 His inability to answer such questions suggested that no clear guidelines exist and that the sanction is left completely to the discretion of the hearing officer.

When we asked children what sanctions they might expect for various offenses, they nearly always replied that they could expect to receive thirty to ninety days of lockup. While some raised specific instances of punishment that they considered unfair, others expressed their approval of the discipline imposed by the hearing officers. Paul G., a fifteen-year-old on L Section, told us, "You get sent to lockdown for knives, fighting, disrespecting the C.O. or the teacher. You get any amount of days the hearing officer give you. I think that's good what they be doing. Seems like everybody trying to get away with stuff."232

Mr. Nastri told us that he may impose "informal" dispositions outside the formal hearing process. The sanctions imposed through the informal process areless severe than those which may be imposed in a formal disciplinary hearing. Mr. Nastri stated, for example, that he might allow a youth to stay in general population with a thirty-day restriction on commissary or visits. While he implied that a substantial portion of the misconduct by youth is handled through informal dispositions, our review of special incident reports for the six-month period ending in May 1999 found few written records of informal dispositions.233

At least for those in the formal hearing process, it appears that some period of segregation is the standard response to disciplinary offenses rather than the last resort in a graduated tier of sanctions. The failure to consider alternatives runs counter to accepted penal practice. ACA standards permit the use of disciplinary segregation "only after an impartial hearing has determined (1) that other available alternative dispositions are inadequate to regulate the inmate's behavior within acceptable limits and (2) that the inmate's presence in the general inmate population poses a serious threat to the orderly operation or security of the facility."234

A related concern is raised by the additional measures that hearing officers often impose on those found guilty of disciplinary offenses. In addition to the ninety days of cell time per charge, sanctions can include loss of phone calls, loss of visits, loss of commissary privileges, or the loss of all of those together (known as "loss of privileges" or LOP). Inmates given loss of privileges receive only two ten-minute showers each week and, at least in theory, are given only one hour outside their cell for "recreation" three times per week. The imposition of loss of privileges or some of these individual measures may be abusive in themselves. For example, in those instances where the loss of phone calls and visits denies children contact with their family members, the use of such sanctions violates international standards.235 Particularly when these additional measures are combined with lengthy periods of administrative detention, as they often are, the total sanction may be very broad and potentially quite punitive.

When a youth is charged with a disciplinary violation, he or she may be held on lockdown for three to five days while awaiting a disciplinary hearing. Mr. Nastri told us that the hearing officers may dismiss the disciplinary charges if the juvenile does not receive a hearing within five days, but he stated that hearingofficers will not do so unless the child raises the issue.236 It is unrealistic to expect that an unrepresented juvenile detainee would be aware that disciplinary charges may be dismissed for this reason.

Disciplinary Segregation

We reviewed the files of all twenty-two juveniles held in segregation on the day of our March 1999 visit to the Baltimore City Detention Center. Two had been given ninety days' segregation with loss of privileges for stabbing other youth; one of the two received an additional ninety days with loss of privileges for having a shank in the gym. Nine were in administrative segregation for having shanks or other weapons, generally receiving thirty to forty-five days and loss of privileges.237 These periods of disciplinary segregation are in addition to any criminal penalties the children might receive-all of those serving segregation time were waiting for criminal charges to be filed for the assaults or weapons charges.

We were concerned to find that a substantial number of youth received the maximum ninety days per charge and some juveniles were sentenced to serve their sanctions consecutively-sentenced to ninety days each for two charges brought simultaneously, these children were segregated for a total of 180 days. Even for cases in which some period of confinement would be appropriate, such lengthy periods of segregation are far in excess of those recommended by the American Correctional Association. The ACA standards applicable to juvenile detention facilities call for no more than five days of such confinement.238 Even for adults, these periods of segregation are excessive. ACA standards applicable to adult jails call for a sixty-day maximum on disciplinary segregation imposed for all violations arising out of one incident, and they provide: "Continuous confinement for more than thirty days requires the review and approval of the facility administrator."239

In calling for a significantly shorter maximum period of isolation for detainees in juvenile detention centers, the ACA standards reflect the view of psychiatrists that extended cell confinement has grave consequences for an adolescent's mental health. For example, one psychiatrist specializing in child and adolescent psychiatry provided testimony in federal district court that

extended isolation of a youngster exposes him to conditions equivalent to "sensory deprivation." This is a state of affairs which will cause a normal adult to begin experiencing psychotic-like symptoms, and will push a troubled person in the direction of serious emotional illness.

What is true in this case for adults is of even greater concern with children and adolescents. Youngsters are in general more vulnerable to emotional pressures than mature adults; isolation is a condition of extraordinarily severe psychic stress; the resultant impact on the mental health of the individual exposed to such stress will always be serious, and can occasionally be disastrous.240

Moreover, not all youth were placed in segregation for such serious misconduct. Some were confined for long periods for behavior that was considerably less dangerous. Three children were charged with fighting with other youth and refusing to stop when ordered by guards to do so. One youth threatened another for his sweat pants and received ninety days of segregation with loss of privileges. Another youth received forty-five days after throwing a bar of soap at a guard and telling him to get off the tier. A third received sixty days with loss of privileges after refusing to go into his cell when ordered and reportedly becoming belligerent toward the staff. In each of these instances, the written report suggested that disputes between juveniles or between juveniles and staff escalated into physical confrontations. In many juvenile facilities, fights of this type would be answered by a brief period of cell confinement to allow the youths to calm down; an important part of the sanction would be to find out the basis for the dispute between the juveniles and attempt to resolve it. In these cases, however, the juveniles involved in two of the incidents received thirty days in segregation with loss of privileges; a third was given ninety days with loss of privileges.

Children held at the Baltimore City Detention Center frequently complained that they were punished arbitrarily or excessively. TerenceB., a seventeen-year-old in segregration, told us that his time on that status had been extended for an extra ninety days as punishment for throwing trash into the hallway so that it could be swept up, something that he said the juveniles in L Section were routinely told to do. "I didn't know that could get me ninety days on lockup," he said, shaking his head. "I didn't know the rules were different on M Section."241

The imposition of long periods of cell confinement in such cases is excessive and punitive when applied to juveniles, particularly when lengthy confinement is accompanied by loss of privileges. Such treatment may amount to violations of constitutional rights and international standards.242


In the Baltimore City Detention Center, juveniles may be placed on "supermax," meaning that they are housed in administrative segregation for their entire period of pretrial detention. According to Mr. Drewery, the warden may order a juvenile placed on administrative segregation without a hearing, based solely on his review of the youth's record.243 The warden's decision to assign juveniles to administrative segregation does not appear to be based on verifiable factors such as prior misbehavior; instead, the disciplinary reports frequently contain only a notation that jail staff suspected that the youth posed a safety risk.

Juveniles and other detainees placed in administrative segregation have no regular means of obtaining review of this decision. Commissioner Flanagan told Human Rights Watch that juveniles placed on administrative segregation "are told why they are reclassified"; according to him, many youths write letters to the warden asking him to review their placement. Nevertheless, he conceded that the detention center had not established an appeal process to review supermax placements: "You're right. They can write to the warden, but I won't sit here and tell you that there's an adjudicatory process."244

While there is no question that jail authorities have the ability to deal with detainees who pose security risks, the process described by Commissioner Flanagan and Mr. Drewery raises fundamental due process concerns. Under the system in effect in Baltimore, a youth who has not been convicted of a crime maybe placed into virtually unlimited administrative segregation-approximately twenty-three hours of oppressive cell confinement each day-without a hearing and without committing any offense while in the jail.

Use of General Lockdowns

We heard frequent reports during our interviews that juveniles in the Men's Detention Center of the Baltimore City Detention Center are often placed on lockdown, meaning that they are restricted to their cells with limited or no access to showers, recreation, visitation, religious services, and education. Usually imposed on detainees throughout the men's facility in response to a fight or a discovery of contraband, lockdowns can last a month or more.

"We go on lock a lot," reported Paul G. in February 1999. "Can't come out your cell, no showers, no phone calls. The only ones who can come out is the working men."245 While he told us that the juveniles on the section are able to go to school and are sometimes given access to the gym during these periods, they are not allowed into the dayroom and are not given library privileges.

The Baltimore City Detention Center was locked down in its entirety from November 1 to November 9, 1998, in response to a stabbing which occurred in T Section on October 30, 1998. In explanation, the state assistant attorney general assigned to the detention center wrote, "Whenever there is a homicide within the Division's facilities, the Division routinely locks down for a number of reasons. These reasons include, but are not limited to: (1) the initiation of any criminal or administrative investigation to the causes of the homicide; and (2) the initiation of a mass contraband search of the entire facility."246

Subsequently, an escape from the detention center on November 27, 1998, resulted in a forty-two-day general lockdown from the end of November 1998 to the second week in January 1999. The assistant attorney general justified this response by noting that "the Division initiated a criminal and administrative investigation as to the cause of the escape," that "there was a mass search for contraband in the entire facility," and that because "there were many potential security breaches in MDC [the Men's Detention Center] . . . . MDC was locked down until physical repairs could be made to eliminate these potential problems."247 Commissioner Flanagan repeated that explanation during our May 1999 visit to the jail.248

According to the policies of the Division of Pretrial Detention and Services, inmates are allowed visits only by legal counsel and clergy during lockdown periods; "all other visits, recreation, and library privileges are suspended" and "phased in when appropriate." Detainees were reportedly allowed holiday visits from December 28, 1998, to January 1, 1999, but could not make phone calls to notify their families that the restriction on visitation had been temporarily lifted.249

James L. Drewery, the detention center's security chief, explained to Human Rights Watch that the commissioner "gave the juveniles the opportunity to earn their rights back with their behavior in school. The juveniles have earned their rights back to visits, and they just earned their rights back to commissary."250

The application of broad restrictions to the entire male facility for lengthy periods of time appears at best to be arbitrary, lacking any valid security rationale; at worst, such a response is intended to punish rather than ensure safety. The comments of Commissioner Flanagan and his staff strongly suggest the latter. Such collective punitive measures are prohibited under international standards.251

Abuses by Guards

We heard few reports of abuses by guards; most children interviewed reported that they felt comfortable around the corrections officers. "They look out for us, especially the evening officer," remarked Anthony P. of the Prince George's County guards. Jenile L., fifteen, told us that while some Prince George's County guards "will cuss at you," others were nice; she had never seen physical violence by the staff.252 Dylan C., in the Baltimore City Detention Center, commented, "Ilike the C.O.'s here. They do a good job. They respect us, we respect them." Similarly, Sam H. characterized most of the Baltimore guards as "cool" but added, "Certain ones want to act smart. They only do it because we're young."253

When we did hear reports of abuses by staff, the juveniles' accounts revealed a common pattern in which guards, provoked by adolescent insolence, react with violence to reassert their authority. Terence B., a seventeen-year-old in the Baltimore City Detention Center's segregation section, told Human Rights Watch that a guard pushed him face-first into his cell door while he was handcuffed. Explaining that the entire section had been handcuffed during a weapons search, he told us,

I was standing outside my cell with the cuffs on my wrists. All of a sudden this C.O. comes up and yells, "Get your ass back inside!," and started to push me back in my cell. I told him wasn't no need to grab me. Then he pushed me hard into the cell door. I raised my hand up so I wouldn't hit my face against the door, and I bounced back away from the door. He slammed me down on the ground and hit me in the face a couple of times. A few other C.O.'s jumped on me then. Then that first C.O. wrote me a ticket. He claimed I was resisting him and pushing him.254

At his disciplinary hearing, the hearing officer saw that his jail-issue fatigues were ripped. "He asked me how they got ripped, and I told him it happened during the shakedown when the C.O. banked me." Based on Terence B.'s testimony and inconsistencies in the officer's written report, the hearing officer dismissed the disciplinary charges.255

Michelle R., also in Baltimore, told Human Rights Watch,

I've been beat up by one C.O. but not a lot. It was when there was a fight in the dorm. This one officer, he don't like us, always be calling us out. One time I told him if he can't respect me, don't say nothing. So that fight, it was at night, on the eleven to seven a.m. shift. When he came up to break it up, he threw me to the wall. I tried to tell him I wasn't going to do nothing, but he pushed me down against the bed. Then he threw me up against the wall and choked me. That was the firstof this month. I got somebody to tell my sister. I snuck to the phone when we took our showers. My sister and mother talked to him. He said he didn't do nothing. I told the assistant warden. I haven't heard anything, but he hasn't worked then, not on this side, not that I know of.

Another time, I saw a C.O. hit another girl. It was a while ago, in October I think. She got smart with one of the C.O.'s, so the C.O. got mad and slapped her. They just wrote her a ticket to put her on lock. They be lying on her like that, sent her down on lock. I don't know if she complained. That's what happens-C.O.'s will tell you if you wise up that it don't matter, they'll put you where you supposed to be.0

James S., in the Montgomery County Detention Center, stated,

What they try to do, they aggravate you to where you do something, then they lock you down. They get power through the situation. They do things to make you get mad, but after you do something you learn you didn't get nowhere. Just 'cause they got power, that's what they do. Like, one time, the C.O.'s did something to this inmate, and the dude tried to stab at them with a pen. All the C.O.'s came in and beat up the dude. The dude's head get busted. Wasn't nothing done to the C.O.'s. Fair and equal treatment don't happen.1

The Need for Specialized Training

International standards recommend that the personnel of a detention facility should receive regular training to enable them to carry out their duties effectively.2 In the case of corrections officers working at adult detention centers, such training is critical to enable them to interact effectively with juvenile detainees. The Montgomery County Detention Center's Youthful Offender Quality Action Team has found, for example:

Behavior management methods effective with adults (21 years of age and older) incarcerated at the Montgomery County Department of Correction and Rehabilitation do not seem to be effective when used with the youthful offender (under the age of 21 years). This isdemonstrated by the increasing number of disciplinary incidents incurred by the youthful offender. Although in 1995 (up to the date of the study) youthful offenders made up 12.6% of the detention center population, they accounted for 23.2% of the disciplinary infractions.3

These data suggest that specialized training may be far more successful in reducing disciplinary incidents than the approach currently employed in Baltimore, the imposition on the entire section of extended cell confinement with complete loss of privileges. In Baltimore and in all other adult jails in which children are detained, jail administrators should seek to provide their staff with training provided by professionals who specialize in the care and custody of juveniles.

The Baltimore City Detention Center has already taken a related step that may have an effect on the incidence of infractions among the juvenile population. Organizing corrections officers in teams, James L. Drewery, the detention center's security chief, has given groups of officers greater responsibility within the security structure.4 These teams of officers may be more likely to take a greater interest in the populations under their custody. Baltimore can build on this initiative by designating a team of officers to oversee the juvenile population and providing the officers with specialized training in the developmental and other issues specific to working with this population.

223 Pretrial detainees, presumed innocent until proven guilty, must be accorded "separate treatment appropriate to their status as unconvicted persons." ICCPR, Article 10(2)(a). Under U.S. law, a pretrial detainee may not be confined under conditions that "amount to punishment." Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520 (1979). Article 67 of the U.N. Rules for the Protection of Juveniles calls for a prohibition on the use of collective sanctions.

224 International standards require that children be given a copy of the institution's rules upon admission. See U.N. Rules for the Protection of Juveniles, Article 24. Further, "[a]ll juveniles should be helped to understand the regulations governing the internal organization of the facility, the goals and methodology of the care provided, the disciplinary requirements and procedures, other authorized methods of seeking information and of making complaints and all such other matters as are necessary to enable them to understand fully their rights and obligations during detention." Ibid., Article 25. See also Standard Minimum Rules, Article 35.

225 Human Rights Watch interview, Washington County Detention Center, July 22, 1998.

226 Human Rights Watch interview, Montgomery County Detention Center, July 30, 1998.

227 Human Rights Watch interview with James L. Drewery, security chief, Baltimore City Detention Center, Baltimore, Maryland, May 11, 1999.

228 See Part X, "Contacts with the Outside World, "Access to the Library" section.

229 Violations are classified into one of four categories. Category One contains the most serious offenses, such as assault or battery on staff or the use of weapons. Drug offenses, Category Two offenses, include the hoarding of medications. Category Three offenses include contraband, disrespect, and being "out of bounds." Category Four offenses areviolations of the technical institutional rules and regulations. Human Rights Watch interview with Fred Nastri, hearing officer, Baltimore City Detention Center, May 11, 1999.

230 Ibid.

231 Ibid.

232 Human Rights Watch interview, Baltimore City Detention Center, February 10, 1999.

233 Human Rights Watch interview with Fred Nastri, May 11, 1999.

234 American Correctional Association, Standards for Adult Local Detention Facilities, 3d ed. (Lanham, Maryland: ACA, 1991), p. 67.

235 "[T]he restriction or denial of contact with family members should be prohibited for any purpose." U.N. Rules for the Protection of Juveniles, Article 67.

236 Human Rights Watch interview with Fred Nastri, May 11, 1999.

237 Of these nine youth, several had prior weapons possession offenses and received longer segregation periods with exended periods of loss of privileges. For example, one juvenile received 195 days of loss of privileges; another lost privileges for 180 days.

238 American Correctional Association, Standards for Juvenile Detention Facilities, 3d ed. (Laurel, Maryland: ACA, 1991), p. 67.

239 American Correctional Association, Standards for Adult Local Detention Facilities, p. 68.

240 Lollis v. New York State Department of Social Services, 322 F. Supp. 473, 481 (S.D.N.Y. 1970) (quoting affidavit of Joseph D. Noshpitz, M.D.).

241 Human Rights Watch interview, Baltimore City Detention Center, April 30, 1999.

242 International standards prohibit the use of "closed or solitary confinement or any other punishment that may compromise the physical or mental health of the juvenile concerned." U.N. Rules for the Protection of Juveniles, Article 67. In the United States, courts have found constitutional violations where a fourteen-year-old was isolated for two weeks with no recreation and no access to reading materials, in the case of a juvenile placed in isolation for seven days and shackled for part of that time, and where youth were punished by being placed in isolation rooms for up to twenty-four hours. See Lollis, 322 F. Supp. at 482; H.C. v. Jarrard, 786 F.2d 1080, 1087-88 (11th Cir. 1986); Milonas v. Williams, 691 F.2d 931, 941-42 (10th Cir. 1982).

243 Human Rights Watch interview with James L. Drewery, May 11, 1999.

244 Human Rights Watch interview with LaMont Flanagan, commissioner, Division of Pretrial Detention and Services, Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, Baltimore, Maryland, May 11, 1999.

245 Human Rights Watch interview, Baltimore City Detention Center, February 10, 1999.

246 Letter from Glenn T. Marrow, assistant attorney general, to Frank Dunbaugh, February 3, 1999, p. 1.

247 Ibid., pp. 1-2

248 Human Rights Watch interview with LaMont Flanagan, May 11, 1999.

249 Marrow letter, p. 2. In response, the inmates' attorney in the class action litigation wrote to Assistant Attorney General Glenn Marrow that "with the telephones turned off, they could only advise their families by letter, but no mail was scheduled to go out until 12/28. What sadist suggested this cruel Christmas amnesty?" Letter from Frank M. Dunbaugh to Glenn Marrow, assistant attorney general, December 29, 1998, p.1.

250 Human Rights Watch interview with James L. Drewery, May 11, 1999.

251 See U.N. Rules for the Protection of Juveniles, Article 67. While we heard accounts of group punishments at other jails, none applied such punishments with the severity or the regularity we heard of in Baltimore. For example, Bruce W. described a common instance of group accontability in Mongomery County, telling us, "If it's loud up here, the whole dorm gets locked in. If it's loud by the phone areas, the whole dorm gets locked in." Human Rights Watch interview, Montgomery County Detention Center, July 30, 1998.

252 Human Rights Watch interviews, P.G. County Correctional Center, July 23, 1998.

253 Human Rights Watch interviews, Baltimore City Detention Center, May 11, 1999.

254 Human Rights Watch interview, Baltimore City Detention Center, April 30, 1999.

255 Ibid.

0 Human Rights Watch interview, Baltimore City Detention Center, February 10, 1999.

1 Human Rights Watch interview, Montgomery County Detention Center, July 30, 1998.

2 See U.N. Rules for the Protection of Juveniles, Article 85.

3 Renee N. Parcover, "The Youthful Offender Quality Action Team's Final Report," p. 2 (Rockville, Md.: Montgomery County Department of Correction and Rehabilition, n.d.).

4 Human Rights Watch interview with James L. Drewery, May 11, 1999.

Previous PageTable Of ContentsNext Page