Youth facility most overcrowded: Group
The Cheltenham Youth Facility was the most overcrowded of Maryland's largest secure detention centers between April and July, the state's juvenile justice watchdog says in a new report.
The Prince George's County facility has been under added scrutiny by some Maryland lawmakers after the February slaying of a 65-year-old employee, whose body was found outside a campus building. A 14-year-old boy has been charged as a juvenile in the killing.
The Maryland Juvenile Justice Monitoring Unit does not mention Hannah Wheeling's death. However, the report cites research showing that crowded conditions in correctional facilities can increase stress and violence, and it mentions two separate group disturbances in June.
The monitor said that while the Department of Juvenile Services has taken steps to successfully reduce population at its three most crowded facilities, Cheltenham still was over its capacity every day of the second quarter reporting period.
“The population there was reduced from an average of 115 youth in June to 105 youth on July 14,” the monitor wrote in its August report. “With an actual capacity of 85, Cheltenham remains significantly overcrowded, but the population decrease has improved staffing shortages.”
The monitor points out that the facility's population rose to as high as 131 youths.
In its response, the Department of Juvenile Services said that while some department facilities had recent population increases, none had chronic and severe overcrowding or any negative effects caused by overpopulation.
“The facility maintained appropriate staffing ratios to ensure adequate supervision of youth, including throughout temporary periods of population increase,” the department said in its response.
The department also said the two group disturbances cited in the report were not caused by a temporary population increase. One of them happened during a basketball game.
“The facility was within required staffing ratio — there were sufficient staff supervising the youth,” the department said.
The monitor reported that the Noyes Detention Center in Montgomery County was above its population capacity for boys on 90 percent of the days in the second quarter.
The Charles H. Hickey School in Baltimore County was over capacity 41 percent of the quarter. The report noted that the Baltimore City Juvenile Justice Center did not exceed its capacity for 120 youths on most days during the quarter, but 40 youths were housed in detention centers around the state, contributing to overcrowding problems in other facilities.
-- Associated Press
Washington Post Editors
August 10, 2010; 3:10 PM ET
Categories: Juvenile Justice , Maryland , Prison Beat
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