Assaults are reported at 2 juvenile facilities

No charges yet in attacks at Hickey and city center

August 04, 2005|By Greg Garland | Greg Garland,SUN STAFF

Authorities are investigating reports of assaults at two state-run juvenile facilities -- including allegations that a 14-year-old boy was sexually assaulted by a group of other residents at the Charles H. Hickey Jr. School.

In the other case, a 16-year- old was hospitalized after another youth struck him with a chair during an altercation yesterday morning at the Baltimore City Juvenile Justice Center, officials said.

The attack at Hickey allegedly occurred last week but didn't come to light until Tuesday, said LaWanda Edwards, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services. A teacher learned about the incident while reading a letter the boy had written to his mother, Edwards said. She said he was taken to a hospital for evaluation Tuesday night and was seen by another doctor yesterday.

"I can say that he was examined by a physician and his injuries are consistent with this kind of allegation," Edwards said. But she said the boy, possibly fearing reprisals, has refused to identify who was involved.

"We're still trying to determine exactly where it happened," Edwards said. She said youths are in single-bed, locked rooms overnight and are monitored by staff during the day when they take showers, go to school programs and take part in recreational activities.

Although previous inspection reports for Hickey have found problems with broken locks on doors, Edwards said that was not an issue in the housing unit where the youth was being held.

Hickey has long been the target of criticism by advocates and federal and state monitors. Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. recently announced plans to close most of the facility by Nov. 30.

The Juvenile Justice Center altercation began when one youth shoved another as a staff member escorted them to recreation, Edwards said.

She said nine youths were in the group and that it "appears that staff handled it appropriately," intervening as quickly as possible to break up the fight.

The injured youth remained hospitalized last night for eye and neck injuries, Edwards said.

Cameron E. Miles, community outreach director for the Maryland Juvenile Justice Coalition, said both incidents are disturbing. "These kinds of things should not be happening," he said.

Edwards said her agency does its best to protect children in its care. "We take many precautions to ensure their safety, as well as that of the staff," she said.

State police were called to investigate both incidents. No criminal charges had been filed in either case as of last night.

The incidents also are being reviewed by internal investigators from the Department of Juvenile Services and by an independent monitor.

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