On Wednesday Maryland officials approved a new $30 million dollar Baltimore jail for teenagers who’ve been charged as adults.
Kara Aanenson, director of advocacy at Community Law In Action, told the Baltimore Sun that the practice of automatically charging many juveniles who commit violent crimes as adults leads to a lot more children being charged as adults.
“It’s definitely not what we want,” Aanenson told the Sun. “We’re really hopeful that we’ll be able to change the law and we won’t need to use it for this population.”
The Board of Public Works unanimously approved the jail.
Currently the Baltimore City Detention center is violating the law by housing juveniles with adult offenders, as the Department of Justice has told the city.
Although the new jail will house violent offenders, a report by the Real News Network earlier this month pointed to how Baltimore teens are being funneled into the juvenile justice system for minor offenses.
According to Jennifer Egan, Assistant Public Defender, “Baltimore City represents about ten percent of the student body statewide, but represents 90 percent of school-based arrests, according to the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services.”
Baltimore students are routinely arrested for minor offenses, says Egan.
“The majority of school-based arrests are for misdemeanors, for small things. For school fights, for arguments, for disrupting school. Lots of children have been arrested in Baltimore City for disrupting school. And those arrests lead to the criminalization and lead to treating kids like criminals instead of taking care of them, addressing their needs, and treating them like kids, which is what we should be doing.”