- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 23, 2008

BALTIMORE — More than 100 offenders are unaccounted for in Maryland’s juvenile justice system, according to an ongoing review by the state Department of Juvenile Services of its Baltimore case files.

Details of the review have not been made public, but documents obtained by the Baltimore Sun show more than 100 juvenile offenders have not had contact with their caseworkers in the past 90 days.

The review of all 2,000 city case files was prompted in part by reports of juvenile offenders who were killed or arrested on adult charges for violent crimes.

Secretary Donald W. DeVore said he was “very concerned” by the reports, which include the case of Farron Tates, 16, who was charged in January with murder weeks after he had been convicted in juvenile court of selling drugs and was sent home to live with his mother. The Department of Juvenile Services did not realize Tates’ mother had been recently convicted of drug possession.

Other cases include Davon Qualls, 17, who was killed last fall around the corner from the friend’s home where a juvenile judge had sent him to live. Despite three subsequent arrests, Qualls’ caseworker did not find him in violation of his probation.

The review, thought to be the first in the department’s history, is about half finished, with the review of the remaining cases expected to be completed early next month. Department officials plan to meet following the review with Baltimore’s 129 caseworkers and 22 supervisors to determine what steps need to be taken.

Reviews of files from other jurisdictions, including Prince George’s County and Baltimore County, are expected, Mr. DeVore said.

Documents from the review show that managers are “failing to ensure cases are supervised,” and that an entire group of caseworkers went unsupervised when a manager took an extended leave of absence. Some caseworkers were responsible for more than 50 youths, with three found to be handling 60.

Union officials said they are worried the review will be used to unfairly punish or even fire caseworkers, a concern Mr. DeVore sought to downplay.

“This is not a witch hunt,” he said.

The secretary said training is likely to increase, and policies may be changed, but he added that staff changes might also be necessary.

“We won’t accept ‘the system’ as being the only reason an employee isn’t doing the work,” Mr. DeVore said.

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