WASHINGTON - The Justice Department today reached a settlement agreement with the state of Maryland regarding conditions of confinement at the Baltimore City Juvenile Justice Center. The settlement resolves a 22-month investigation into the facility.
The agreement, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, requires the state to implement reforms to ensure that juveniles at the Justice Center are protected from harm and provided legally adequate services, including mental health care, suicide prevention, and special education. Under the terms of the agreement, the Justice Center will join the Cheltenham Youth Facility in Cheltenham, Md., and the Charles H. Hickey Jr. School in Baltimore County, Md. in an existing independent monitoring regimen.
“We are pleased with the state’s cooperation and willingness to implement meaningful reforms at the Justice Center” said Wan J. Kim, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “States have an obligation to ensure that young offenders in its custody are housed in a safe and humane environment.”
The Department’s investigation of the facility, which houses up to 144 boys aged 12 to 18, revealed a number of civil rights violations, including excessive youth-on-youth violence, deficient suicide prevention measures, inadequate mental health care, and legally insufficient special education services. Today’s agreement requires the state to address and correct all of the violations identified by the Justice Department.
The Civil Rights Division conducted its investigation pursuant to the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 and the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act of 1980. These statutes allow the federal government to identify and root out systemic abuses such as those identified in this case, rather than focus on individual civil rights violations.
The Civil Rights Division has successfully resolved investigations of other juvenile justice facilities in Arizona, Arkansas, California, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, Puerto Rico and Saipan. Investigations concerning juvenile justice facilities in California, Indiana, New Jersey, Ohio and Texas are pending.
Since 2001, the Department of Justice has opened 71 similar investigations into the conditions at nursing homes, mental health facilities, and residences for persons with developmental disabilities, as well as similar institutions. These figures represent a significant increase over the 57 such investigations initiated over the preceding six years.
The United States findings letter to then-Governor Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr. is available at http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/split/documents/baltimore_juve_findlet_8-7-06.pdf. Additional information about the Special Litigation Section of the Justice Departments Civil Rights Division can be found at http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/split/index.html.