The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has reached another agreement with a state to fix abuses at juvenile justice facilities.
The settlement with Maryland in May is part of a Bush administration pattern in which the department’s civil rights division has focused on reaching settlements to change dangerous conditions at juvenile justice facilities, rather than forcing them to close. While some juvenile justice observers have applauded the strategy, others have called it too soft. (See “U.S. Justice Department Cuffs Juvenile Corrections,” November 2004.)
The latest settlement focuses on youth-on-youth violence at the Baltimore City Juvenile Justice Center, which DOJ blamed on poor staff training and an absence of youth activities. A 2005 report by the department cited juveniles playing Xbox and basketball, but doing little else. The facility houses up to 144 boys.
The settlement calls for the state Department of Juvenile Services to overhaul the center’s mental health, behavioral management and educational services. It says the center will subject youth to less seclusion and will redesign its rooms to cut down on the opportunities for suicide.
Maryland had previously settled with the DOJ to fix two other juvenile justice facilities.
The settlement can be found at http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/split/documents/bcjjc_set_5-18-07.pdf.