E-Alerts & Press Releases

Alliance of Community Organizations and Members Release Proposed Alternative Action Plan Against the Construction of a Youth Jail in Baltimore City

For Immediate Release 

August 25, 2011
Contact: Laura Furr
Maryland Shaw
Pastor Heber Brown
Alliance of Community Organizations and Members Release Proposed Alternative Action Plan Against the Construction of a Youth Jail in Baltimore City
On August 25, 2011, an action plan signed by 28 community groups that oppose the state’s plan to construct a new $100 million “youth jail” in Baltimore City was released. The action plan provides Governor O’Malley and the Maryland General Assembly a detailed how-to guide that, if adopted, would immediately eliminate the need for the “youth jail.” Maryland leaders can then spend the $100 million dollars on capital projects that provide youth positive opportunities.
The how-to guide recommends four policy changes – house youth with youth, detain only youth who need to be detained to protect public safety, stop automatically charging youth as adults, and reduce the disproportionate number of African-American youth in Maryland’s criminal justice system. First, the community organizations ask Maryland’s leaders to house youth with youth by changing where youth are held pre-trial from adult jails to juvenile detention, thereby eliminating for the proposed youth jail. Other states are already doing this, including both Virginia and Pennsylvania.
Second, the Department of Juvenile Services must finally make progress on its goal of only detaining youth who need to be detained to protect public safety. One way to accomplish this is by reinvigorating Baltimore City’s Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (“JDAI”). JDAI has successfully reduced detention populations in other cities and by more than 50% without increasing the risk to public safety. Baltimore City has seen only a 3% decrease. “If DJS reduces the number of young people in detention, then juveniles in adult jails can be housed in juvenile facilities,” points out Angela Conyers Johnese of Advocates for Children and Youth.
“Maryland must follow other states taking action in the face of the mounting evidence that the experiment of charging youth as adults actually increases the risk that a youth will reoffend sooner and more violently than if that youth’s case was handled in the juvenile court,” states Laura Furr, co-author of Just Kids: Baltimore’s Youth in the Adult Criminal Justice System. Involvement in the adult criminal system traps youth in a system not designed to handle their need for rigorous rehabilitation. Maryland should abolish its counterproductive law requiring the automatic charging of youth as adults.
African-American youth are overrepresented in the criminal justice system: 99% of the youth locked up in the Baltimore city jail are African-American, while African-American youth make up only 75% of the city’s youth population. According to Pastor Heber Brown III of Pleasant Hope Baptist Church, “We are still locking up African-American youth at an alarming rate even when the research shows that African- American youth commit no more crime than their white peers. Why are we investing so much money in locking up African-American kids instead of educating, supporting and caring for them?”
The alliance held numerous community meetings to determine fair and just alternative uses for the $100 million budgeted for the “youth jail.” Hundreds of Baltimore community residents repeatedly stated their desire to see tax dollars spent on positive community resources, such as school construction and recreation centers. Maryland Shaw of the Baltimore Algebra Project speaks for many of her peers when she states, “Baltimore’s schools are in historic levels of disrepair. Why are we spending so much money on a jail we don’t need when our schools need so much help?”
The alliance submitting this proposal and the communities they represent ask Maryland’s leaders to take this opportunity to shift taxpayer dollars from failed policies to opportunities for our youth. For more information, contact Laura Furr at 410-446-3628, Maryland Shaw at 443-801-3868, or Pastor Heber Brown at 410-402-3211.
Advocates for Children and Youth 
B’more Mobile
Baltimore Algebra Project 
Baltimore’s Safe and Sound Campaign
CASA de Maryland 
Campaign for Youth Justice
Chesapeake Center for Youth Development 
Community Conferencing Center
Community Law In Action, Inc. 
Fusion Partnerships, Inc.
Generations for Peace and Democracy 
Hand in Hand
Just Kids Partnership
Justice Policy Institute 
Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle
Maryland Association of Resources for Families and Youth
Maryland Disability Law Center
New Lens 
Youth Know How Initiative
Peace Action Montgomery 
Public Justice Center
United Parents of Incarcerated Children and Youth 
Baltimore Phil Berrigan Memorial Chapter of Veterans For Peace
Full Employment Baltimore Coalition 
Maryland Education Coalition
Mentoring Male Teens in the Hood 
Pledge of Resistance-Baltimore
Eric Ford 
Pastor Heber Brown

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