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Officials working to improve conditions for kids held at Baltimore County Detention Center

Posted at 6:06 PM, Mar 16, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-16 18:06:44-04

The director of the Baltimore County Department of Correction has responded to the Office of the Public Defender's Juvenile Protection Division concerns about conditions for young inmates at the Baltimore County Detention Center.

Last Monday, March 6th, the Office of the Public Defender sent a letter to BCDC, saying it "fails to comply with the mandates prescribed under the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Act (JJDPA) Sight and Sound Separation requirement, Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), and the Individuals with Disabilities Education (IDEA) Act."

The letter was sent following interviews with "juvenile detainees charged as adults" on November 17, 2022.

The investigation, the letter says, revealed violations that included juveniles having limited access to phones and showers, being locked in their cells 23 hours a day and that "plumbing regularly floods cells with contaminated toilet water and debris," among other findings. (List of findings can be found in the full letter below.)

The letter added, "it was revealed that the conditions for juveniles housed at BCDC have not improved since JPD's initial 2018 investigation."

On Thursday, March 16th, we received a 2-page response letter from Director of the Baltimore County Department of Corrections, Walt J. Pesterfield.

County Executive Johnny Olszewski's name was on the letterhead as well.

"Please know that the administration shares your concerns regarding appropriate placement and treatment of juveniles," says Pesterfield in the beginning of this response letter.

"Even before receipt of your letter, the County Executive directed me in my newly-confirmed role as Director of Corrections to identify areas for improvement at BCDC," he continued.

Pesterfield then said he didn't find the same conditions noted in the JDP (Juvenile Protection Division) letter.

"In response to your letter, the County Executive has directed me and others in the administration, including Baltimore County's Deputy Administrative Officer for Public Safety to closely evaluate the facility's current conditions, policies, and practices, and to carefully investigate the claims raised in your letter.

It appears that in many cases, conditions were not found to be as described in your letter; however, the County has identified areas for improvement. We will be sure to follow-up with you once our investigation is fully completed, which we anticipate will be within the next thirty (30) days.

Baltimore County and BCDC remain fully committed to provide adequate housing for all inmates ordered to the detention center. We further recognize the unique challenges and requirements of youth housed in an adult facility such as BCDC."

View the full letters below:

BCDC-letterMar2023-1 on Scribd

3.16.23 Letter OPD Pesterfield on Scribd

We will continue to follow the developments on this story.