Overcrowding, staff shortages persist at state's juvenile facilities

Facilities need better staffing, security, quarterly report finds

December 17, 2010|By Jessica Anderson, The Baltimore Sun

Overcrowding, staff shortages and inadequate security are some of the continuing problems at the state's juvenile facilities, according to a report released this week.

The quarterly report made by state's Juvenile Justice Monitoring Unit noted the issues, which are the latest in series of problems uncovered in several audits conducted after a 14-year-old boy in a low-security program at Cheltenham Youth Facility was accused of sexually assaulting and killing a state employee this year.

DJS, however, contends that areas of safety and performance show a "positive" direction compared with the same period last year. The agency reports that assaults on staff have dropped 28 percent statewide, group disturbances have fallen 61 percent statewide and escapes are down 43 percent, according to its response to the report.

At the Cheltenham Youth Facility in Bel Air, where Hannah Wheeling was allegedly killed by a teen in February, the report found that facility was overcrowded, cottages at that facility were "dilapidated" and staffing was inadequate. The report also said youth are held in isolation for longer than permitted.

The Charles H. Hickey Jr. School in Baltimore County, where three escapes occurred during the last year and a half, was cited for several issues, including staff violations of safety procedures. In a response, DJS says it has stepped up its supervision policies.

The report also said a number of the facilities were in need of surveillance cameras.

At the Thomas J.S. Waxter Children's Center, the only state-run facility for detained and high-security girls, two staff members were fired after allegations of child abuse, the report said. The center does not have enough space for the youths' medical care, and mentally ill youths are inappropriately placed at the center, the report found.

At the same facility, a July incident was reported in which a doctor was cited for using unacceptable language with a patient.

The report also states that "refusal of ob/gyn examination by this physician is common, and girls often go without care." The unnamed doctor is the only one who offers gynecological care at Waxter. The agency argues that DJS is one of the few state departments that offer comprehensive ob/gyn care to all female youth in its custody, and that DJS has counseled the doctor and determined that the doctor's care is high quality.

At the Baltimore City Juvenile Justice Center, the report cites problems of extended stays for those awaiting placement because of a resource shortages. The center was released from U.S. Department of Justice oversight in August 2010.

The report is the first quarterly study since Juvenile Services Secretary Donald W. DeVore, whose four-year tenure has earned mixed reviews, announced last month that he would not seek reappointment.


    Baltimore Sun Articles
    Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.