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Stop Baltimore Youth Jail! Invest in Alternatives!

This petition had 681 supporters

The state of Maryland is on the verge of building a new jail for youth charged as adults, spending more than $100 million dollars!  This proposed 180-230 bed jail is not needed and will not improve public safety outcomes.   

The State's bed space forecast has been reviewed by the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, one of the nation's oldest and most respected criminal justice research organizations, and found serious methodological flaws that put into question the accuracy of its projections.

Link to the report:

Instead of spending over $100 million for the construction and operation of a new jail for youth, Maryland Governor O'Malley could take these actions:

First, Governor O'Malley should support legislation to stop automatically charging youth as adults.  In Maryland, youth as young as 14 can be automatically prosecuted in adult court. This is harmful to youth and studies show this does not increase public safety.

Second, Governor O'Malley should stop detaining youth in adult jails.  Youth are at serious risk of physical and sexual assault in adult jails and do not have access to educational services and other crucial programming.  If a youth must be detained for public safety reasons, the youth should be placed in a juvenile detention facility.

Third, instead of building a new facility, Governor O'Malley should only detain youth who may pose a risk to public safety and only place these youth in a juvenile detention center, such as the Baltimore City Juvenile Justice Center, as they await their day in court.  The State of Virginia recently passed a law to place youth who are charged as adults in juvenile detention centers, not adult jails.  This could happen in Maryland today, under existing law.

Finally, Governor O'Malley should reduce the youth population at the City’s juvenile detention center by using and expanding community-based alternatives to detention. Not only do alternatives to detention produce better outcomes, they cost less.  At a daily cost of $400 to house a youth in a juvenile detention facility, releasing those who do not need to be detained according to juvenile service’s own risk assessments and placement orders would save the state $28,800 a day or $10.5 million a year.  A portion of these savings can be used to support evidence- and practice-based alternatives to detention. 

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