Baltimore City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young took a stand Sunday against O'Malley administration plans to build a new juvenile jail in East Baltimore.
Writing an opinion piece for The Baltimore Sun, Young said there is "plenty of evidence to refute the need to spend millions to build a jail for juveniles."
"Recently, Governor [Martin] O'Malley decided to double-down on the misguided plan to spend more than $70 million building a youth detention facility in Baltimore that studies show is not needed and could ultimately end up being a colossal waste of taxpayer funds," Young wrote.
Young cited lower arrest rates, and argued that the state should spend the $70 million it plans to use to build the jail on "basic development activities," such as recreation, sports, arts and school improvements, which Young believes will steer youth from crime.
Young's piece comes after O'Malley described plans for a new 120-bed youth detention facility for teens charged as adults as "moving forward," despite the anger of activists who say the state should be building schools for children, not prisons.
The O'Malley administration says the new jail is needed because youths charged as adults are currently housed in poor conditions at the Baltimore City Detention Center -- alongside older inmates charged with felonies. Youth advocates and attorneys for the detainees say the adult jail continues to be an unsafe place for youths.
In July, The Sun documented some of the conditions at the current facility, including assaults, lax oversight by correction officers and stifling heat. After that report, the detainees were moved to a different building in the complex with air conditioning, a move that officials said had been in the works for months. U.S. Justice Department officials also paid their first visit to the jail since reaching an extension on an oversight agreement in April.
Rick Binetti, a spokesman for the state prison system, said state laws determine that some youths must be charged as adults for certain crimes, including murder and rape.
Prison officials and the state "need a new facility to meet the needs of this population long term," he said.