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Teens’ time in adult jails could be costly

ANNAPOLIS — Maryland had nearly five times the acceptable number of juveniles locked up in adult detention centers for extended periods in 2008, putting the state out of compliance with the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act and in jeopardy of losing tens of thousands of dollars in federal grant money this year.

Federal guidelines require that juveniles not be locked up with adults for more than six hours, or 24 hours in rural areas, while awaiting transfer to a juvenile facility, a court hearing or processing. Advocates say separation is key and that, without it, youth face higher rates of abuse and even suicide.

The 2008 juvenile justice monitoring report, compiled by the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention, showed Maryland had 43.48 per 100,000 juveniles incarcerated for too long with adults. The allowable limit under federal regulations is “9 per 100,000 juvenile population of the state.”

In September, the Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention notified the state that its numbers were too high. Noncompliance could cost the state up to 20 percent of its federal grant allocation, or about $170,000, using 2010 figures.

In addition, the state could be forced to spend 50 percent, or about $350,000, of the remaining grant to bring the numbers into compliance.

Juvenile incarceration in adult facilities usually occurs when a juvenile first comes into a local police department. By law, juveniles can be held in the same facility as adults for up to six hours, or 24 hours in rural areas, but the two populations cannot see nor have conversations with each other.

“The [compliance] requirement is actually the responsibility of local law enforcement,” said Bill Toohey, communications director for the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention.

“We have instituted training with local law enforcement to let them know about the six-hour rule,” Toohey said.

Violations could be happening throughout the state, he added.

“I would bet it’s not in one particular area,” Toohey said. “There are about 100 police departments in Maryland and 23 in Prince George’s County alone.”

Since the compliance issues are primarily created at the local level, state authorities can withhold funding for local police departments.

“Just like the feds are doing to us, we can then withhold our money from them,” Toohey said.

Fighting cuts

In Baltimore, the area the 2008 monitoring report cited as having the highest number of juveniles incarcerated with adults, officials say most of the violations are due to poor recordkeeping.

“These are mostly paper violations which have to do with recordkeeping, rather than actual violations,” said Sheryl Goldstein, director of the Baltimore Mayor’s Office on Criminal Justice.

“The city’s worked really closely with the governor’s office to address the recordkeeping issue and the policy in Baltimore now is all juveniles are transported to the Baltimore City Juvenile Justice Center, a facility that has been in compliance with the rules,” Goldstein said.

Because Maryland is working with local law enforcement to address the issue, the state is mounting an administrative appeal to the Department of Justice to fight cuts to the 2011 grant.

“We’re going to make the case that we’ve made an unequivocal commitment to meeting the requirements and achieved substantial compliance,” Toohey said.

The number of juveniles held over the time limit has improved, going from 43.48 per 100,000 in 2008 to 19.13 per 100,000 in 2009. However, the rates are still more than double the allowed number.

“We’re concerned about the whole issue of juveniles held with adults, period. That they’re in noncompliance doesn’t surprise me,” said Shelley Tinney, executive director for the Maryland Association of Resources for Families and Youth, a statewide network of child and family service providers.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. seemed surprised to find out that Maryland was out of compliance, but said he was trying to provide more juvenile beds in the state, so that juveniles had a place to await trial.

“We’re trying to expand Cheltenham [Youth Facility] in Prince George’s County and a new [facility] in Baltimore City, so hopefully we’ll get into compliance as quickly as we possibly can,” Miller said.

Tinney said the funding loss would hurt preventive services that communities need to keep kids out of the system.

“That’s money that they [the state] don’t have to spend on prevention services, alternatives to detention,” Tinney said. “Our position is those are the things that need to be addressed. Then we wouldn’t be filling up the juvenile facilities and wouldn’t need to house kids with adults.”

According to ACT4 Juvenile Justice, a national advocacy group, research shows that youth incarcerated with adults are at “great risk” of sexual and physical assault. These youth are 36 times more likely to commit suicide than their counterparts in juvenile detention and have a high rate of recidivism.

Four requirements

The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act, originally passed in 1974, created a partnership between the Department of Justice and states to protect youth in juvenile justice systems and identify ways to prevent more youth from being incarcerated. The Act set up the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, requiring states to monitor their juvenile systems and submit reports to receive federal funds.

Each state must meet four requirements: 1) Deinstitutionalization of status offenders, or not incarcerating kids for crimes that only apply to children, like truancy, running away from home, or alcohol possession; 2) Juveniles may not be detained with adults for more than six hours before or after a court hearing, or 24 hours in a rural area; 3) “Sight and Sound” separation from adult offenders when detained with adults for any period of time; 4) Address the reasons for disproportionate minority contact in the juvenile justice system, or why youth of color are more likely to be in the system than white youth.