O'Malley says Baltimore youth detention facility "moving forward"

Gov. Martin O'Malley said that plans for a new youth detention facility in Baltimore are "moving forward" and described the current building as "a very old and decrepit facility."

Momentum is building in Annapolis to fund a new 120-bed jail for youth who are charged as adults, a charged issue that has ignited anger from activists who say the state should be building schools for children, not prisons.

"When we try to address the issue, it becomes a political football," O'Malley said this morning on WTOP's Ask the Governor.

The Sun documented some of the conditions at the current facility, which is due to be replaced. Abuses included assaults, lax oversight by correction officers and stifling heat in the existing facility. One 16-year-old prisoner reported losing a tooth in a fight and then having to administer first aid on himself. Others said they slept on the floor during a three-day power outage.

"Everyone would agree that regardless of the horrific nature of the charges we have an obligation ... to uphold minimum standards," O'Malley said. "This facility does not meet those standards."

The governor was also quizzed on some of the controversial ballot questions. He defended gambling expansion, though did not directly answer a question about whether the General Assembly can take use gambling revenues for government programs other than education (it can.)

Should the gambling expansion referendum fail this fall, O'Malley said he would not want to take up the issue again. "Perhaps some future governor would want to wrestle with this issue again," he said.

O'Malley is term-limited and will leave office in Jan. 2015. Many (including some at The Sun) have speculated that the governor will run for president in 2016. Asked about White House ambitions, O'Malley said he's spent "damn little" time thinking about the next step.

The most lively parts of the segment focused on competition between Virginia and Maryland. O'Malley challenged Va Gov. Bob McDonnell to a debate on WTOP. And, at the end, O'Malley added a "push-up contest."

A spokesman for Gov. Bob McDonnell put the kibosh on the idea.

“It’s going to be a little difficult to find the time to debate the Governor right now," said Tucker Martin, a McDonnell spokesman "We’re just so busy helping the thousands of former Maryland residents who have recently moved to Virginia get situated."

Tucker said the two states already have their own version of a push-up contest. "It’s called state unemployment rates," Martin said. "Spoiler alert: Virginia wins.”

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