Charging Juveniles as Adults in Maryland: Jail Plans Spark Debate

Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley says plans to build a controversial new juvenile detention facility in downtown Baltimore are "moving forward," according to a recent Baltimore Sun article. The proposed 120-bed facility will cost an estimated $70 million to construct and is intended to house juvenile offenders who have been charged as adults.

Currently, juveniles facing adult criminal charges are held in an annex of the city's adult facility, where recent reports of violence and unsafe conditions have sparked a controversy over the treatment of juveniles charged as adults in Maryland.

In July 2012, the Baltimore Sun published a report on what it described as the "deplorable" conditions endured by youth who are held in the city's adult jail while awaiting trial.

Juveniles held at the Baltimore Detention Center claim they often must endure beatings and intimidation by other juvenile detainees - sometimes in plain view of guards, who they say do nothing to intervene, the Sun reported. Other youths said that conditions in the facility are unsanitary and claim they have been denied access to basic medical care.

A Long History of Concern About Conditions for Juvenile Detainees

The recent Sun report was hardly the first time that living conditions in Baltimore's detention facilities have been subject to harsh scrutiny. The issue has been of such concern over the years that several court orders have mandated improvements - including one earlier this year. On one occasion, the Sun reported, conditions in the city's detention centers even attracted the attention of Human Rights Watch, a global organization dedicated to defending and protecting human rights.

Gary Maynard, Secretary of Public Safety and Correctional Services in Maryland, says that complaints about the treatment of juvenile detainees are overblown, according to news reports, and claims that the new juvenile detention center would resolve whatever legitimate issues exist at the current facility. However, Maryland defense attorneys and other youth advocates disagree with Maynard's assessment, arguing that a new facility would do nothing to address many of the problems faced by the city's juvenile detainees.

Instead of building a brand new facility to hold juveniles charged as adults, many critics of the plan argue that a better approach would be to reconsider Maryland's policy on charging juveniles as adults. According to state law, criminal suspects under the age of 18 are required to be charged as adults when accused of any one of 30 different offenses, including murder, armed robbery, first-degree assault and a number of lesser offenses. However, only about 30 percent of juveniles charged as adults in Maryland are convicted in adult court; the remaining 70 percent either are not convicted or have their cases waived back to the juvenile system.

Legal Help for Juveniles Facing Criminal Charges

Being charged with a criminal offense in Maryland can have serious and potentially life-changing consequences for juveniles and adults alike. If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges in Maryland, it is important to seek help from an experienced criminal defense lawyer as early in the process as possible. An attorney with a background in criminal defense will fight to protect your rights and will advocate for the best possible resolution to your case.