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Monday, July 19, 2010

Kids Held In Maryland Jails

Children held in Maryland's jails are often placed in overcrowded, sometimes physically deteriorating facilities. Although some jails make efforts to separate juveniles from adults, to some extent children have contact with adult inmates in every detention center visited by Human Rights Watch. In all jails, children complain that they are hungry; one youth in the Baltimore City Detention Center told Human Rights Watch that he avoided exercising out of fear that he would use up needed calories.

Some 150 youth, between one-half and two-thirds of all children held in adult detentions centers in Maryland, are placed in the Baltimore City Detention Center, a crumbling, century-old facility equipped with woefully inadequate light and ventilation and infested with cockroaches and rodents. Maintenance at the jail is irregular. The staff relies heavily on the confinement of detainees to their cells, sometimes for extended periods, as a method of behavior management. As a result, both juvenile and adult detainees must endure appalling conditions of detention.

Girls in adult jails are faced with the prospect of near-total isolation, often left with only each other for company. Human Rights Watch investigators touring Baltimore's jail saw the two girls then in detention standing at the door to their section, their faces pressed to the window and schoolbooks clutched in their arms. When we entered the section, they demanded to know when somebody would come to take them to school, telling us that they had not been to classes for three days. "We thought maybe they forgot about us," one said; they reported that they rarely had contact with guards apart from meals and the times they were taken to and from school.
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Baltimore City Detention Center

With portions of the Men's Detention Center dating to 1809, Baltimore's city jail is the oldest pretrial facility in use in the state of Maryland. LaMont Flanagan, commissioner of the state Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services's Division of Pretrial Detention and Services, referred to the jail as an "artifact" and described the facility as "your old-style jail that you see on television."An imposing structure in its own right, the jail is adjacent to the Maryland StatePenitentiary and across the street from the state's new supermaximum security facility.

Approximately 150 juveniles are in detention in the Baltimore City Detention Center on any given day. The vast majority are male, with no more than five to ten girls in detention at one time. (There were only two girls in detention at the time of Human Rights Watch's visit in May 1999.)

Many remain in detention for six months or more. Commissioner Flanagan noted, "According to the statistics, the average stay is seventy-six days. But that's only an average. We have some that stay nine months. Some are up to two years. These juveniles have complicated cases, and they do not plead guilty."

Juvenile defense attorneys confirmed that children tried as adults spend more time in pretrial detention than their counterparts in the juvenile court system and are detained longer than most adult inmates. Attorneys who represent children charged as adults noted that children who face criminal charges have more incentive to contest the charges against them rather than accept a plea bargain. A significant number secure acquittals or dismissal of charges. According to Flanagan, "Fifty percent are released after a prolonged period of time."

Figures reported by the Division of Pretrial Detention and Services demonstrate that juveniles are held in pretrial detention for very long periods. For the period January through October 1996, on average fifty-eight juveniles each month have spent more than three months in pretrial detention. In each of these months, at least two juvenile inmates had been in the detention center for more than one year while awaiting trial; in March 1996, thirty-nine juveniles, 23 percent of the total juvenile population, had spent more than one year in detention pending the resolution of their cases in the circuit or district court.

Male juveniles in the Baltimore City Detention Center are housed in single or double cells in the Men's Detention Center, called the "steel side" by some inmates. Female juveniles are housed in a dormitory in the Women's Detention Center.
The Boys' General Population Section
The general housing area for male juveniles is L Section, located on the second floor of the North Building. Formerly used for inmates on lockup status, the section has a total of sixty cells divided into two sections, each with an upper and a lower tier of fifteen cells each. Bars along the front of each row of cells open onto a passageway; no cell faces any other cell. Exposed pipes, many with torn insulation, line the passageways. The only natural lighting in the section comes from the four or five large windows in each passageway. At the time of our visit in May 1999, most of these windows were partially blocked by plywood or covered by opaque plexiglass or translucent plastic sheeting. Most of the glass panes were broken where the windows were not covered. Each side of the section has two telephones and a dayroom. The single shower room for the section has six shower heads; according to the guards on duty when we toured the section, two shower heads were not working at the time of our visit.

Originally designed for single occupancy, most of the cells in L Section have two bunks and a combination sink and toilet. The majority of the cells measure about eight by seven feet and have eight-and-a-half-foot ceilings; two cells, the first on each side of the upper tier, are slightly larger. The section has two isolation cells with heavy metal sheets completely covering the bars, blocking all natural light from entering the cells. According to the detention center security chief, these cells are not used; he stated that the detention center was in the process of having the metal sheets removed from the bars. We were unable to confirm that no children were held in these cells in L Section.

L Section housed sixty-nine children on the day of our September visit and seventy-one on the day of our May visit. This number is close to the average daily occupancy in the section since the beginning of 1998. Before 1998, the section routinely housed in excess of one hundred, reaching its maximum capacity of 120 in June 1997.
We heard a number of complaints from children held at the Baltimore City Detention Center that their court clothes, stored in lockers at the entrance to each section, were often dirty when they were retrieved in preparation for court dates. "They only let us have one court outfit," Jerome T. said. "They put them in these unsanitary lockers. Mice be pissing on your clothes.

Jail staff across Maryland cited security as the reason for requiring juveniles to wear uniforms. Since youth in most juvenile facilities wear ordinary clothingsuch as t-shirts and shorts or pants, there is a real question whether there is an actual security justification for the uniforms. In the absence of actual incidents of violence directly related to clothing or a similar justification, the validity of requiring youth to wear stigmatizing, institutionalizing, and often uncomfortable clothing is questionable. In Baltimore, the fact that adult inmates are not required to wear such uniforms casts further doubt on the security rationale advanced by jail officials.
Those who can't afford commissary items go hungry unless they are able to get commissary items from others. "If somebody don't eat something, you can give them a cup of soup or chips from the commissary, or you trade the things you don't eat," explained Sam H., in the Washington County Detention Center.192 Often, children told us, they lose their commissary items to theft or coercion. "Some folks here, I've never seen order commissary," Michael T. observed, "but then I see them with commissary stuff."

The U.N. Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their Liberty provide that youth in detention must receive food at normal meal times and of a quality and quantity to satisfy the standards of health and hygiene Youthcorrections specialists concur that children need more food than adults do. "Young people require at least 3,000 calories per day, including frequent opportunities to eat, both meals and snacks," writes Barry Glick, a corrections consultant and former associate deputy director for local services with the New York State Division for Youth. The National Commission on Correctional Health Care estimate is even higher-up to 4,000 calories per day or more for teenagers who are still growing or very active.Our impression that officials at adult jails did not understand the dietary needs of their juvenile inmates was confirmed when an official at the Baltimore City Detention Center told us during a meeting of detention center staff that the facility served its inmates "2,200 to 2,800 calories per day, depending on the population. The NCCH standard is at 1,800; others are 2,000 calories. We're well within the dietary requirements. That's not unusual in any correctional setting." Asked about children in detention, he replied, "The juveniles would get that higher caloric intake because of their needs." However, he was not able to explain how the meals served to juveniles differed from those offered to adults. Indeed, the meals we saw served to juveniles appeared to be identical to those offered to adults-the portions served to juveniles appeared to consist of the same items, to be the same size, and served on trays that were not marked to distinguish them from the meals offered to adult inmates.
125 Human Rights Watch interview, Baltimore City Detention Center, May 11, 1999.
126 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.
127 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.
128 Ibid.
129 Figures are taken from tabular data provided by the Maryland Division of Pretrial Detention and Services to the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, January through October 1996.
130 See 1993 Revised Consolidated Decree, Duvall v. Schaefer, Civil Action No. K-76-1255 (D. Md. July 9, 1993), Appendix B., pp. B-1 and B-2.
131 Human Rights Watch interview with James L. Drewery, security chief,

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