Teen's escape highlights Md. lapses

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Boy who fled from lockup is one of many at DJS

August 31, 2008|By Melissa Harris | Melissa Harris,melissa.harris@baltsun.com

Dwayne Price had been arrested 11 times and had run away from state custody at least once. Yet at the age of 18, the state's juvenile justice system gave him one final chance at rehabilitation, sending him to Pennsylvania's Camp Adams, a youth lockup north of Allentown.

Less than three weeks later, Price escaped. Pennsylvania authorities quickly caught, charged and convicted him as an adult. But because he had been waiting in jail for 145 days, they paroled him three days after he was sentenced, putting him back on the streets - likely years before he would have been if he hadn't escaped.

While on parole, Price returned to Baltimore, where police allege he posed as a TV repairman and raped an 88-year-old cancer patient in her Baltimore home on Aug. 1, 2007. Police say it was the second time Price had raped an elderly woman while supposedly under state supervision. Now he's in Baltimore City jail, awaiting trial for both rapes.

With a lack of secure lockups for the worst offenders, Maryland's Department of Juvenile Services is frequently forced to commit its charges to facilities out of state. About 120 Maryland youths are locked up out of state at any given time, according to the most recent statistics available, and Price is not the only one who has fallen through the cracks.

Jeffrey Clinton Butler, a Baltimore youth locked up as a juvenile for carjacking, escaped from another Pennsylvania facility. He was arrested in Baltimore on an unrelated charge but was let go because of a clerical error. Seven days later, Butler was shot to death in Baltimore.

During the past fiscal year, which ended June 30, there were 18 escapes from locked facilities and 30 attempts, according to department statistics, though it's not clear how many of those were in out-of-state facilities. And the long-troubled agency, which has been struggling to reform, discovered this spring that at least 100 of its charges in Baltimore were unaccounted for.

"It amazes me we have roadway package services, such as UPS, that do a better job tracking boxes than the state does at tracking young people," said Cameron Miles, organizing director for Baltimore's Advocates for Children and Youth.

Price was arrested 11 times as a juvenile, the first time at age 11, and was convicted twice. The first was in Baltimore for unauthorized use of a motor vehicle in September 2004. He was put on probation. During the next year and four months, he ran away from shelter care, violated his community detention, missed court appearances and didn't go to school.

His DJS case manager, Barnard Jones, confessed to Juvenile Master Gregory Sampson in a Jan. 18, 2006, hearing that during much of Price's probation, he had no idea where the youth was.

Price still lists a Dundalk address, which is his grandmother's, but his defense attorney told Sampson that his grandmother was too "up in age" to care for him. Her phone has since been disconnected. Price's father is in prison for violating probation, according to court and prison records.

With no relatives capable of caring for him and a history of running away, Price had never demonstrated that he was capable of being rehabilitated, Sampson said.

"For some reason, the [Department of Juvenile Services] sees an opportunity for this young man to be able to be in the community in a group foster home," Sampson said. "I'm still trying to figure out where they see that, except to say that I'm going to place my trust in DJS."

Although the juvenile master agreed to allow DJS to send Price to a group home, he gave the agency latitude to send the youth to a secure facility should his "behavior or any other circumstance" warrant it.

After that hearing, Price was arrested twice, accused of theft in Baltimore County on Feb. 23, 2006, and then robbery in Baltimore City on June 13, 2006. Baltimore County convicted him as a juvenile of "unauthorized removal of property."

It's not clear which jurisdiction sent Price to Camp Adams and what prompted the transfer, but he arrived there Dec. 27, 2006, two months after his 18th birthday.

Price fled Camp Adams about 1 a.m. on Jan. 14, 2007, with another young man named Emmanuel Nieves. According to Pennsylvania court records, Nieves assaulted one of the camp supervisors and stole his cell phone. The two youths were picked up by a state trooper as they walked on the northeast extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike at 11 a.m.

Baltimore Circuit Judge David W. Young initially ordered DJS to securely transfer him back to Baltimore once the Pennsylvania case concluded. But on April 12, 2007, with Price now a convicted adult felon awaiting sentencing in Pennsylvania, Baltimore Circuit Judge Sylvester B. Cox terminated DJS' supervision of Price.

"He's playing with the big boys, Mr. Wills," Cox told Talieb Wills, Price's juvenile public defender.

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