The New York Times, December 13, 1999

Maryland Boot Camp Probe Opens
By The Associated Press

BALTIMORE (AP) -- A criminal investigation has been launched to determine whether guards at three paramilitary-style boot camps for juvenile delinquents committed child abuse, Maryland State Police said Monday.

``There does appear to have been a pattern of inappropriate behavior,'' Maj. Tom Bowers, chief of state police detectives, told a task force appointed by the governor to examine reports of abuse.

A team of child abuse investigators and state police detectives have questioned 108 juveniles and 87 staff members at the camps.

It was common for camp guards to ``push, shove, grab and generally manhandle'' youths when they first arrived at the state-run camps in the mountains of Garrett County in western Maryland, Bowers said.

He said some instances of violence appeared to be ``systemic.''

Maryland's Juvenile Justice Secretary Gilberto de Jesus appeared before the seven-member panel and shouldered blame for the alleged abuses.

``Ultimately I hold myself responsible for this,'' he said.

State law defines child abuse as any physical pain or injury sustained by a child as a result of ``cruel or inhumane treatment'' or a ``malicious act'' by a caregiver, parent or guardian.

De Jesus told the panel that the camps created their own, unauthorized use of force policy, and ignored his efforts to end the beatings.

Gov. Parris Glendening suspended operations at the three camps on Saturday after The (Baltimore) Sun published eyewitness reports of guards assaulting delinquents. The Maryland National Guard is supervising the camps in the interim and monitors from the Department of Social Services are staffing them 24 hours a day.

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