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July 31, 2010

Ehrlich criticizes jail project that began on his watch

At a campaign appearance this week to talk up services to at-risk youth, Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich criticized the $100 million jail for juveniles to be built in Baltimore as a "warehouse."

It was "certainly not our model," Ehrlich said of the facility designed to house as many as 230 young offenders awaiting trial as adults

"It's the antithesis of what we like to do. Large institutions typically do not work."

In fact, Baltimore Sun colleague Julie Bykowicz reports in Sunday's newspaper, the project got its start under Ehrlich. In 2005, Ehrlich approved planning money for the facility and his administration conducted the first population projection survey. The survey arrived at an estimate similar to the one produced two years later under Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley.

Stephen T. Moyer, deputy secretary for the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services under Ehrlich and his predecessor, Democratic Gov. Parris N. Glendening, said the need for a juvenile detention center in Baltimore dates to an October 2000 Justice Department report.

"Governor Ehrlich began planning this because that's what the Justice Department told us to do," Moyer said.

State officials have agreed to review the planned capacity for the facility — a concession to groups who say the project is too big.

Teens awaiting trial as adults are now held in a wing at the Baltimore City Detention Center, an arrangement the Justice Department said lacks adequate separation from hardened adults.

But advocacy groups that include Baltimore's Safe and Sound Campaign, the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Public Justice Center say the state should spend on intervention programs instead of huge jails. At a loud protest last month, they asked the governor to put the brakes on the project.

Construction of the juvenile detention center is scheduled to begin in the fall. The state has spent $12 million for planning, demolition and site preparation near other prison facilities in East Baltimore.

This week, the National Council on Crime and Delinquency questioned the number of juveniles that the state expects will face adult charges in the coming years, the projections on which officials based the maximum capacity of the detention center. The Oakland, Calif.-based organization says the projections are flawed because they are three years old and were compiled by the prison system.

A spokesman for O'Malley said prison and juvenile officials have been meeting with jail opponents and are open to ideas. Safe and Sound director Hathaway Ferebee said another meeting is scheduled for next week.

But state officials said it is unlikely that the project would be derailed even if the projection is revised downward. They said the capacity could be reduced, with some of the space now planned for beds redirected to other purposes.

Read more about the $100 million detention center for juveniles at

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 12:00 PM | | Comments (6)


Ehrlich is doing what Maryland politicians of both parties always do--jump aboard the bandwagon that appears to be gathering momentum. It has absolutely NOTHING to do with the merits of the issue. OF COURSE we need a big secure facility for juveniles, as the feds advised us before Ehrlich ever took office as governor. I'm hardly the only one who knows perfectly well that juveniles are at the highest risk for violence, both as perpetrstors and as victims. It was Ehrlich's soft center on drugs that helped to keep John Wagner, Lavelva Merritt, and a host of other dangerous drug freaks on the street. Please note that I am not carrying any water for O'Malley. He too is a liar and a hypocrite. Our next governor, whoever wins, will be in matters of public safety a consummate fool.

These are individuals charged as adults because the law says they must be charged as adults. When they are convicted the choice is to serve time in an age appropriate facility or with adult long term felons. "Community based programs" are NOT a choice because these guys have been CONVICTED and the judge has sentenced them to State time. The advocates (as usual) show no understanding of the process. If they want young people charged as juveniles then they must change each specific law that now mandates any one charged with certain crimes ( like murder) must be tried as an adult. In the system its called "waiver" but don't think the advocates would take time to educate themselves about the law.

@telecommutenow: You are confused about the status of these juveniles. This is jail, not a prison. The youth that would be incarcerated there have not in fact been convicted of anything. They are being held pre-trial. If this were a prison, then your statement would be correct. You should take the time to educate yourself before maligning others.

Good ol' Bobby Haircuts showing his true colors again. This time, Bobby doesn't have the burden of incumbency. He can be against anything he wants and hope no one notices that half the things he maligns against were his ideas.

This is a project that started with the Justice Dept not Ehrlich. The way the current system is going none of them will ever see any serious jail time. If they are going to invest all of this money the people of Baltimore will need to clean house and get real about the legal system in Baltimore with regards to giving these criminals real jail time so Baltimore can continue to move in the right direction.

what an idiot

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About the bloggers
Annie Linskey covers state politics and government for The Baltimore Sun. Previously, as a City Hall reporter, she wrote about the corruption trial of Mayor Sheila Dixon and kept a close eye on city spending. Originally from Connecticut, Annie has also lived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where she reported on war crimes tribunals and landmines. She lives in Canton.

John Fritze has covered politics and government at the local, state and federal levels for more than a decade and is now The Baltimore Sun’s Washington correspondent. He previously wrote about Congress for USA TODAY, where he led coverage of the health care overhaul debate and the 2010 election. A native of Albany, N.Y., he currently lives in Montgomery County.

Julie Scharper covers City Hall and Baltimore politics. A native of Baltimore County, she graduated from The Johns Hopkins University in 2001 and spent two years teaching in Honduras before joining The Baltimore Sun. She has followed the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pa., in the year after a schoolhouse massacre, reported on courts and crime in Anne Arundel County, and chronicled the unique personalities and places of Baltimore City and its surrounding counties.
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