Does Baltimore Need a Youth Jail?

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As cash-strapped as Baltimore City is, it’s found the means to start constructing a new multi-million dollar jail, specifically intended to house youths charged as adults… and activists city-wide think that sounds like a mis-use of funds.

Those in favor of the jail point out that the current system houses youths alongside adults, and that this new jail is intended to improve living conditions for these kids.

Critics point out that the jail isn’t needed, and that the government is basing its claims on flawed data — for example, in 2007 the Department of Public Safety projected that they’d need 178 beds to house young inmates by 2010; in actuality, only 92 are there. Flawed stats mean that the case for the jail is weakened. Consider also that the past eight years have seen a steady decline in youth arrests, and that more than two-thirds of the kids who do end up being charged as adults don’t make it into the normal jail population (either because they’re released on bail, have their cases dismissed, or are sent to the juvenile system). “The Governor should not invest millions of dollars in a jail that will be over half empty,” they proclaim.

Hundreds of people protested the jail’s construction on Tuesday. City Councilmembers Mary Pat Clarke and Jack Young have come out in favor of stopping proceedings on the jail to focus instead on “more effective and less costly alternatives to pre-trial detention.”  O’Malley has agreed to suspend construction for the time being, but the project is still slated to move forward.



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