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Quick and Dirty

Treatment Center

By Christina Royster-Hemby | Posted 7/13/2005

The Rally for Juvenile Justice Reform will take place July 20 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. in front of the Department of Juvenile Service Headquarters, 120 W. Fayette St. For more information, call (410) 547-9200, ext. 3002.

“The state of Maryland arrests roughly 50,000 juveniles per year. And they arrest close to 12,000 in Baltimore alone,” laments Cameron Miles, community outreach director for the Maryland Juvenile Justice Coalition. “But the majority of the children in Maryland’s Department of Juvenile Services are nonviolent offenders.”

So Miles is asking the community, local politicians, and state leaders to join him on Wednesday, July 20, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. in front of the Department of Juvenile Services headquarters in Baltimore to push for funding of community programs that could serve as viable alternatives to incarceration for these kids.

Miles is especially troubled because he says local juvenile detention centers are overcrowded, and poor staffing and lack of funding across the state has led to physical harm to kids who could be better rehabilitated without incarceration. The system is simply not working, he says, citing the perpetual insurrections that occur at Baltimore County’s soon-to-be-closed Charles H. Hickey Jr. School and a July 18 “mini-riot” at the understaffed Baltimore City Juvenile Justice Center that left three staff members hurt.

“There are many community providers who operate programs right in the community, who typically never get any funding,” Miles says. “These programs are far more effective in rehabilitating children.”

Miles says Exhibit A can be found in programs such as the Reclaim Our Children and Community Project, a community-service program for kids in Southwest Baltimore. Its 28-year-old founder, Dante Wilson, answers a call from City Paper, but not before stopping to get a group of kids straight. “We don’t need to be loud, we are kings and queens here,” he says, disciplining a few of his charges.

Wilson’s program helps 200 at-risk children per year. These kids range in age from 5 to 18 and many were raised on the streets in and around the gritty southwestern part of the city. Many of the “kings and queens” he’s dealing with have been incarcerated for stealing cars, dealing or possessing drugs, and/or gun violations.

“Eighty percent of our kids stop offending, develop better relationships with themselves, their families, and finish school,” Wilson says, noting that his program tries to treat entire families and communities, not just individual offenders. “Usually when a child acts out, it’s because of something that has gone wrong at home, so we work with the whole family to get our children rehabilitated.”

Reclaim Our Children holds weekly family meetings, nonviolent crisis-prevention intervention training for parents, and Narcotics Anonymous meetings—the kinds of programs that won’t be found in your typical juvenile-detention facility.

“But the juvenile justice system only treats the child, and that’s just not working,” Wilson says.

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