WYPR Visits Baltimore County Detention Center To Investigate Conditions: Report


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BALTIMORE COUNTY - The Maryland Office of the Public Defender released a letter last month that raised concerns over conditions faced by youth charged as adults at the Baltimore County Detention Center.

The letter describes youths held in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day, cells flooded with "contaminated toilet water," and rat infestations.

WYPR reporter Rachel Baye visited the jail this week and shared her findings.

"The short answer is my visit backed up some of what the public defender's office described, but in other ways, what I saw differed substantially from their allegations," Baye told fellow reporter Ashley Sterner on WYPR.

One of the main concerns raised in the Office of the Public Defender's letter was that juveniles were confined to their cells 23 hours a day. Baye says that is not what she witnessed.

"When I approached the unit where boys are held, the boys were in the common area on the unit, known as the "dayroom," working with a teacher from Baltimore County Public Schools. I was told that the boys typically have class and eat their meals in that area," Baye said.

According to Baye, she was informed that the children usually spend at least two and up to nine hours a day outside their cells.

After inquiring about how the schooling system works within the jail, Baye was told that "schooling was at least partially provided via virtual instruction until recently."

According to Baye, many of the accusations made in the Office of the Public Defender's letter are true only in quarantine in the Intake Unit, where youths spend their first five days at the jail.

"Their letter says while in the intake unit, juveniles spend 23 hours a day in their cells, without access to any education, and are only let out for brief periods to shower or make phone calls. It also says juveniles sleep on mats on their cell floors. My visit confirmed all of that," Baye said.

Sterner and Baye also addressed accusations that the jail does not properly separate juveniles from adult inmates. Baye said that youth are held in cells with a small glass window while in the intake unit. The juveniles can look out the window into a waiting room, where adult inmates sit while waiting to be processed and assigned to a unit.

According to Baye, Major David Greer, said the staff "lockdown" all adults in the area before letting youth out of their cells.

Baye said, "there were no adult inmates in the unit where the teenage boys are housed."

However, she said that on the day of the tour, only one teenage girl was housed at the jail and that she was in a unit with adult women inmates. An official told Baye that "keeping her in a unit by herself would amount effectively to solitary confinement."

The accusations made in the letter are currently under investigation by the Baltimore County Executive's Office. According to the county, that investigation should be completed by mid-April.

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Rachel stop playing. You know **** well, once the facility manager knows someone is coming to do an inspection, they clean up and only perform the written way of doing things. Once you leave out the door, they back to illegal habits and you know it. I don't think a public defender would raise the awareness if it weren't true. 

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