Lawmakers look to shut Md. girls detention facility

March 15, 2010|By Henri E. Cauvin | The Washington Post

Maryland's only secure detention center for girls is so old and outdated that frustrated state legislators have raised the prospect of closing the Laurel facility by next year.

On Thursday, the House Judiciary Committee will take up a bill to do just that, and although the legislation's sponsors don't expect the measure to pass, proponents say the shortcomings of the Thomas J.S. Waxter Center reflect a broader failure to address the needs of girls who end up under the supervision of the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services.

"Sometimes you need a big hammer to get attention," said Del. Sue Kullen, a Calvert County Democrat and a sponsor of the bill. "This is a shot across the bow."

Girls lack access to the kind of intensive after-school and night programs that boys do in places such as Prince George's County and Baltimore.

Instead, a judge who thinks a girl needs closer supervision than what might be found at home often has no option but to place the child in Waxter.

Waxter's building, built in the early 1960s in Anne Arundel County, isn't in line to be replaced for at least six to eight years. Critics see it as a relic of a different era and a sign of the slow pace of change in juvenile justice in Maryland, especially for girls.

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