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Press Release: MBK Baltimore Releases Report Highlighting The Expensive Cost Of Youth Incarceration

The Cost-Benefit report recommends alternatives to incarceration for Baltimore’s justice-involved youth that will keep them either in their homes or closer to their homes, in an effort to significantly lower their chances of reoffending.

Baltimore, MD – The Board of My Brother’s Keeper Baltimore, a cross-sectional collective of public and private sector leaders committed to improving the outcomes of boys and young men of color (BYMOC), released a new report on the gross discrepancies in costs and youth outcomes when comparing the use of Maryland sponsored placement facilities versus at-home/closer to home alternatives to incarceration (ATI) for Baltimore’s juvenile justice-involved youth. The report provides insight into the continuous cycle of punishment Baltimore’s justice-involved youth face, illustrates the lack of clear pathways to rehabilitation for impacted youth, and spotlights the lack of community restoration efforts.


- Statewide, youth of color (non-white) represented nearly 80% (399 youth total) of all placements despite representing only 30% of the general population. A placement is based on a decision made by an intake officer or judge to place a youth into detention (temporary, secured custody in physically restricting facilities or circumstances) or a committed (long-term, out-of-home) program.

- Over half (50.9%) of Baltimore City’s juveniles placed in a placement facility are re-arrested within just 12 months after being released as of FY 2019 (the most recent year with data available).

- It costs $25 million to fully operate and staff the Baltimore City Juvenile Justice Center (BCJJC) – a state-sponsored detention facility. There are 120 beds, all reserved for young men. Last year, less than 60% of total capacity was utilized.

- Maryland’s placement facilities for youth totaled an alarming $38,781,054 in operational costs last fiscal year with an average utilization rate of 49.2%. In other words, less than half of the facilities’ overall total capacity was being used over the course of fiscal year ’20.

- In 2020, the average annual cost per youth at BCJJC was nearly $205,000. This average annual cost nearly doubled to $399,804.68 per bed at a Maryland-sponsored placement facility.

- Costs for operation and staffing of these facilities are fixed. As a result, when the population of detained youth declines, the average cost per bed increases as the full cost is spread across fewer youth. In addition, youth are expected to spend far fewer days in a detention center compared to a committed program at a placement facility. This all helps explain why the cost for placing a youth in a committed program is significantly greater than placing them into detention.

- All four state-operated youth placement facilities in Maryland are far from Baltimore City youth’s homes and communities, typically anywhere between 70 and 170 miles away from the city. Sending a young person away from home as part of a response to their offenses keeps a young person away from their most important source of support during their rehabilitation - the young person’s family. These facilities are difficult to reach, especially for families hard pressed to pay for transportation or for gas for a car. As a result, youth become more estranged from family and community, suffer significant school disruption and have weakened social capital upon return after being released.

A range of proven community and home-based interventions could dramatically improve youth outcomes, reduce recidivism and protect public safety. These could be provided for a fraction of the cost of the current system. We discuss some of these impactful interventions in this report. Depending on the range of needs and appropriate alternative interventions to be offered, taxpayers could save anywhere from $10-20 million each year, and youth would have better outcomes not just during their adolescence, but throughout their lifetimes. Recommendations in this report include:

- Functional Family Therapy (FFT), a short-term family therapy intervention and juvenile diversion program helping at-risk children and delinquent youth to overcome adolescent behavior problems, conduct disorder, substance abuse, and delinquency

- Treatment Foster Care Oregon (TFCO), a therapeutic foster care program with the goal of reuniting families, reducing delinquency and teen violence, and increasing prosocial behavior and participation in prosocial activities

- Community Based Group Homes, non-profit residential programs for youth in placements, providing out-of-home care for four or more youth who are moderate to high risk and need more structure and supervision than a relative, foster parent, or treatment foster care program could offer. General group homes also provide a formal program of basic care, social work, and health care services.

"Juvenile justice reform is a top priority for the My Brother’s Keeper Baltimore Board because all of our voices need to demand change in a broken and expensive system that leaves kids worse off than when they started,” said Marc Broady, MBKB Chair, “We know we can and must do better.”

Marc Broady, Chair, My Brother’s Keeper Baltimore

“Serving youth in the community, close to family and close to their homes, is a proven approach that can help stop delinquent behavior in its tracks” said Deputy Mayor Faith Leach. “It is time we work together to build the community-based programs we need to keep kids safe and connected during their rehabilitative journey.”

Faith Leach, Deputy Mayor for Equity, Health and Human Services – Baltimore City

"By highlighting for the public the stark disparities in costs to Maryland taxpayers and the underwhelming youth outcomes associated with state facilities, we hope to make it abundantly clear that Maryland’s taxpayers are footing an enormously wasteful bill in the name of juvenile justice. Meanwhile, proven community-based interventions are available that come with significantly lower price tags.”

- Eddie Hawkins, Youth Diversion Workgroup Staffer – Baltimore City

“2022 represents a unique and historic opportunity for Maryland to transform its juvenile justice system into one that uses care, instead of cages, to help our youth transition successfully into adulthood. This report provides a stark reminder of why the Maryland General Assembly must pass Juvenile Justice reform bill and end the automatic charging of children in adult court. By investing in community-based resources and proven treatment, Baltimore is poised to partner with the state to invest in proven interventions to serve our youth, at home.”

Jenny Egan, Chief Attorney, Juvenile Division Maryland Office of the Public Defender – Baltimore City

“The Choice Program at UMBC works directly with young people to build autonomy and support systems so that they may flourish. Choice's staff and mentors intentionally change systems within Baltimore City and Maryland to undo the legacy of white supremacy and end mass incarceration. MBK's report is one such step to identify and overturn inequities.”

Kelly Quinn, Ph.D. Deputy Director of The Choice Program at UMBC

“It’s important to have several options for the youth because everyone doesn’t learn the same. We have to reform and reshape the mind, by providing different programs and resources whether it’s before they actually make it to the system or after. Therapy and giving youth a choice to do what they like would is a good way to slow down or stop recidivism!” – Charles Paxton, Youth Ambassador at The Choice Program at UMBC

With the support of our City’s elected officials and the general public, MBK Baltimore intends to leverage this report to educate the public about the costs of youth incarceration and to build support for Maryland’s Juvenile Justice Reform Council’s 2022 legislative agenda. This agenda prioritizes the passage of the Council’s Juvenile Justice Reform Bill at the state’s upcoming Legislative session. This Bill’s recommendations include ending the use of out-of-home placements for juveniles and placing state funding and resources for juvenile services back in the hands of the communities these young people call home. By entrusting communities most directly impacted by the disparities highlighted in this report, we can bring greater accountability, sensibility, and transparency to how those resources and dollars are being spent.

about MBK Baltimore

My Brother’s Keeper Baltimore (MBK Baltimore, or MBKB) is dedicated to ensuring that boys and young men of color have every opportunity to maximize their full potential. MBK Baltimore works collaboratively with city agencies, non-profit organizations, businesses, communities, and individuals to use best practices and collaboration to remove barriers that systemically deprive young men of color the opportunity to fully achieve their potential. MBK Baltimore will deliver a city where efforts and resources are connected with intentionality to close achievement gaps, increase workforce opportunities, decrease interactions with the justice system and create strong social emotional support systems aimed at improving life outcomes for boys and young men of color.

To learn more about MBK Baltimore, please visit

About the MBK Alliance

President Obama launched My Brother’s Keeper in February 2014 to address persistent opportunity gaps facing boys and young men of color and to ensure all youth can reach their full potential. Today, the work continues as the MBK Alliance, an initiative of the Obama Foundation. Within the Obama Foundation, MBK Alliance focuses on building safe and supportive communities for boys and young men of color where they feel valued and have clear pathways to opportunity. MBK Baltimore accepted the MBK Community Challenge to improve the lives of boys and young men of color in 2014. They have partners in the Mayor’s Office of African Male Engagement, local business and philanthropic communities, and the Department of Juvenile Services for the State of Maryland. In 2018, MBK Baltimore was selected as an MBK Community to Watch.

To learn more about the MBK Alliance, please visit

Download and read the full report below.

MBK Baltimore - The Cost of Incarceration Report 2021
Download PDF • 748KB

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