The remaining juvenile offenders in Western Maryland boot camps will be removed by the end of the week, Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening and Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend said yesterday, after hearing reports from a review team of "patterns of abuse" by guards at the facilities.
"The state's policy is clear and unvarying--violence will not be tolerated, against anyone, juvenile or adult, at any time," Glendening (D) and Townsend (D) said in a joint statement.
The decision to temporarily suspend the military-style programs and remove the 79 youths was made yesterday morning, after a conference call with state officials and members of the Independent Assessment Team that Glendening assembled last week, according to a spokesman for Glendening. The team has been reviewing reports, first detailed in the Baltimore Sun, that guards at the Garrett County camps have routinely beaten and brutalized cadets, smashing heads into the ground, gouging eyes and, in one case, fracturing a wrist.
On Friday, a state judge pulled out 26 Baltimore juveniles, and a livid Howard County official brought home four juveniles from that county. A state spokesman said some of the remaining youths probably come from the Washington area, but no figures were available.
Glendening had suspended new admissions and ordered independent monitors for the camps to ensure the remaining youths' safety. But when he and Townsend heard from officials yesterday that the abuses were not isolated but part of a pattern, they decided on a temporary shutdown.
"I wasn't surprised, I was appalled," said Bishop R. Robinson, the former secretary of the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, who is heading the assessment panel.
State officials view suspension of the program as an interim step pending the assessment team's recommendation on whether to keep a form of a military-style boot-camp model or move to a "youth camp" model.
Preliminary recommendations are expected Wednesday. Youth camps, which in a rural setting offer educational programs and drug and other counseling, stress exercise and strong discipline without the military rigor.
Like Townsend, Robinson has been an advocate of the boot camp concept, which is sure to be attacked in the wake of these findings. Yesterday, he said he still believes "a carefully drawn program, properly staffed" can reduce recidivism.
"I am very much concerned about the conduct of guards and about the way this destroys the credibility of a program that was well-intended," he said.
The state senator heading the subcommittee in charge of juvenile justice matters pledged hearings.
"I want to know why this was allowed to happen. They have a lot of explaining to do," said Sen. Ida G. Ruben (D-Montgomery). "We're not a Third World country, after all. This is America. We can't pass over the fact these are rough-and-tumble kids [at the camps], but being brutal is not the answer."
The youths were not brought back immediately yesterday only because of the difficulty in finding safe and appropriate places to put the children, many of whom are violent and repeat offenders. Of the Baltimore group, 18 had to sleep Friday on a gym floor.
Meanwhile, the facility this week, without boot camp activities, is under the supervision of Maj. Gen. James F. Fretterd, commander of the Maryland National Guard. Boot camp officials have assigned 14 guards to "administrative duty" to keep them from contact with the youths. Monitors from the Department of Social Services will remain on site.
And, Robinson said, assessment team members will be looking in more detail at the abuses and trying to figure out "how far up the chain" they were being tolerated.
Staff writer Scott Wilson contributed to this report.