6-8-12: Girls Inside the Department of Juvenile Services
We speak with ACLU attorney Sonia Kumar, who runs their Juvenile Justice Initiative. We also reached out to DJS themselves; they declined to participate in the interview and instead sent us the following statement (please note: we have not edited the statement and are aware that there are some spelling and grammar mistakes).
The Department of Juvenile Services appreciates the invitation to “Maryland Morning” to discuss issues related to girls in Maryland’s juvenile justice system. Since taking the reigns at DJS in February 2011, Secretary Sam Abed has made the improvement of services for girls in the juvenile justice system a top priority.
In his first year with DJS, Secretary Abed opened new programs called “day and evening reporting centers” that are designed to provide supervision and services to girls in the community who are waiting to go to juvenile court. These programs give judges an alternative to placing girls up in a secure juvenile detention facility. Two day and evening reporting centers opened in Baltimore City and Prince George’s County, respectively, with a
third slated to open in the near future in Montgomery County.
Girls services took a big step forward in November 2011 when the treatment program for girls was closed at the Thomas J.S. Waxter Center in Laurel and was moved to the J. DeWeese Carter Center on the Eastern Shore. Now, girls committed to the care of DJS receive treatment services that focus on substance abuse, mental health, and individual therapy in a facility dedicated solely for their care. Additionally, education and vocational services are provided at Carter by teachers from the Maryland State Department of Education.
DJS recently implemented the CHALLENGE program at Carter to help improve the girls’ behavior by focusing on positive behavior rather than punishing negative behavior. We are happy to report that since the CHALLENGE program has been implemented, DJS has seen the number of incidents and use of restraints at Carter decrease. DJS takes the safety of youth and staff at its facilities seriously
and will continue to monitor Carter closely.
There is no question that girls’ services ha
ve improved measurably in the last year but there is still more work to be done. DJS is looking forward to working with child advocates, legislators,
juvenile judges and attorneys and other interested people on a Girls’ Services Committee that will focus on more ways to continue the recent improvements for girls in Maryland.