Since the beginning of time many groups have overcome situations where their advancement within the hierarchy of society was undermined. From women to racial groups, many have seemingly broken the “glass ceiling” looming over their heads. Yet I have a hard time believing teenagers facing the prospect of jail and prison as the only viable response to their mistakes are capable of this immense task. With the challenges inner city youth face on a daily basis, it’s no surprise they sometimes resort to violence and drugs to solve them. Yet elevating incarceration above education and rehabilitation for these youth will only further perpetuate this cycle and ultimately destroy a generation.
Following an agreement with the federal government to separate youths from adults at the Baltimore City Detention Center, the state of Maryland is preparing to build a $104 million jail for youths being tried as adults. The facility will house up to 230 teenagers and like most state initiatives, it will be paid with the use of taxpayers’ dollars. While Maryland Legislative Services has announced the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services needs to close another facility in order to save money on staff costs, they managed to find the money to allocate towards the construction of this new jail. State officials have justified the proposal by projecting that the number of youths charged as adults will double by 2025. Yet from 2006-2010 the average daily population of youths at the City jail decreased from 140 to 100 inmates. As of June 22, 2010, there were only 90 youth at the facility. Based on this trend the jail would be virtually empty by 2025 indicating the state should discontinue this project and consider more positive alternatives that will produce better outcomes for our youth. How many schools can you build with $104 million? How many jobs can you create?
Until then, or if it ever happens, you can help. The state should listen to community members and leaders who want to have a voice. Send a letter to Governor O’Malley asking him to stop work on the proposed jail and consider other alternatives to make better use of funds and produce better outcomes.