- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 12, 2006

BALTIMORE (AP) — The Baltimore Juvenile Justice Center is run in an unconstitutional manner, causing youths to “suffer significant harm and risk of harm” because of a lack of staff and inadequate behavior management and treatment plans, the U.S. Department of Justice has found.

A report obtained by the Baltimore Sun concluded that the state-run center failed to adequately protect children, citing youth-on-youth assault rates 47 percent higher than the national average for such facilities.

It also found that youths are not adequately protected against suicide and that the center fails to provide adequate mental health treatment and other services.

“The pervasiveness and seriousness of the violence at the Justice Center appears to result primarily from an inadequate behavior management plan, chronic shortages in trained direct-care staff, and the presence of environmental security hazards,” the Justice Department report said.

The report, based on findings from inspections conducted last fall, was dated Aug. 7, but it was not released at that time by the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services or the federal Justice Department officials. Maryland officials provided a copy when the Sun learned about the report and requested a copy.

Juvenile Services spokesman Edward Hopkins said his agency did not feel it was the state’s responsibility to release the report because it was done by a federal agency.

The U.S. agency began investigating the center last summer after advocates and others complained that youths were being mistreated and that the facility was unsafe and not adequately staffed.

Juvenile Services Secretary Kenneth C. Montague Jr. said that the federal report reflects conditions that investigators found during inspections a year ago and that staffing and other issues they raised have been addressed since then.

But while Mr. Montague and other officials said conditions have improved at the center, advocates for youths and others said serious problems persist.

The state’s independent monitor of juvenile facilities, Katherine A. Perez, noted “the ongoing issue of staffing shortages and the threat to life, health and safety this presents to children” in an Aug. 31 letter to Mr. Montague about the Baltimore center.

The letter from Miss Perez, who resigned in September to become police chief in Bowie, Md., accompanied a report by her office detailing an incident in which a 15-year-old boy was beaten in his room at the center by at least a half-dozen youths, and the staff either did not know or did not stop the attack.


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