ONE YEAR AGO we noted on this page that Maryland's treatment of juvenile offenders was one of the longest-running emergencies in state government. And so it remains, with sickening reports of violence -- sexual abuse, beatings and punishment beyond the pale -- still occurring in two ill-staffed, run-down facilities: the Cheltenham Youth Facility in Prince George's County and the Charles H. Hickey Jr. School in Baltimore County. Official concern has increased, and some corrective steps have been taken, but constructive results are intolerably slow in coming.
Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) raised these issues when he ran for governor and has done so periodically since he took office. So has his secretary of juvenile services, Kenneth C. Montague Jr. They have said that the slow progress is caused by a lack of resources and that a Justice Department report detailing brutality does not reflect the state of these facilities today. "Tell that to the young man who was discharged last week from the hospital after being raped at Hickey," wrote state Sen. Brian E. Frosh (D-Montgomery), chairman of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, on The Post's Close to Home page last month.
The Justice Department report, which covered incidents dating to early 2002, detailed episodes in which staff members at the two facilities punched, kicked, choked and shoved juvenile detainees. Last Friday, The Post's Ruben Castaneda reported that one former youth supervisor at Cheltenham who admitted to slapping a handcuffed youth in the face last summer has been transferred to a front-office job in a detention center for teenage girls. Why on earth is he anywhere near such a facility?
State officials noted last month that five workers at Cheltenham had been fired and 25 others reprimanded, suspended or demoted during the previous six months. The disciplinary actions were first reported by the Baltimore Sun, which years ago detailed beatings by guards at a poorly managed system of boot camps organized under Gov. Parris N. Glendening and Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. The state closed those camps in 2000.
What does it take to alter Cheltenham and Hickey so that they provide decent treatment? Mr. Ehrlich pledged early on to prove that even children who commit crimes are "savable" -- an important endeavor. But their rescue requires money, accelerated training, better educational programs and, above all, a sense of urgency yet to be seen.