Task force discusses Md. system of supervising young offenders

Panel to complete a report by Feb. 28

January 07, 2000|By Kate Shatzkin | Kate Shatzkin,SUN STAFF

A state task force appointed to help fix Maryland's system of supervising juvenile delinquents after they leave institutions started work yesterday with a discussion that veered from academia to the streets.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening appointed the 11-member task force after a series in The Sun last month detailed abuses at one of the state's boot camps for delinquents in Western Maryland, and the failure of the state Department of Juvenile Justice to keep track of young offenders once they had graduated from the camp.

The task force, chaired by retired Washington County Circuit Judge Daniel W. Moylan, has until Feb. 28 to complete a report. While it is supposed to focus on the supervision system for boot camps, Glendening and Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend also have asked for recommendations on how to strengthen the "after-care" system statewide.

The group began yesterday by hearing that problems of unsupervised delinquents are not unique to Maryland. "A lot of the interventions we offer do not help kids become more productive citizens," said Faye S. Taxman, a University of Maryland criminologist assisting the task force.

Cautionary tales were offered by Harry Langmead, one of the few top juvenile justice officials left after the boot camp scandal resulted in the departures of the department secretary and four top aides.

Langmead, an assistant secretary responsible for after-care, spoke about probation agents' attempts to get out in communities to check on their young charges -- only to be kept waiting in court all day because a judge would not set a time for a case.

He recalled occasions when outside consultants had been hired to reform the state's system -- and installed models for supervision that have since been discredited.

"A lot of people who stand here and talk have no idea what it takes to carry a caseload of 47 kids in your neighborhood," Langmead told a roomful of attorneys, legislators, bureaucrats and professors. "The people who know what's going on are the workers."

Still, he said, he was eager to work with the task force -- "because I need help."

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