The state's top juvenile justice official defended yesterday a program that supervises troubled youths at home with electronic monitors, as his agency investigates how three teens foiled the detention system and then were accused of killing people.
"This program has a high degree of success," said Bishop L. Robinson, secretary of the Department of Juvenile Justice. "We are looking at the incidents very carefully to see what changes can be made. ... We cannot judge a program by one event, a single negative event."
However, the escapes and the killings that followed drew sharp criticism from the campaign of Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., the likely Republican candidate for governor.
Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, who is also running for governor, has taken a high-profile role in running the state's juvenile justice programs.
"This shows just how much the state's juvenile justice system is broken," said Paul E. Schurick, a campaign spokesman for Ehrlich. "The fact that three juveniles can cut their ankle bracelets off and the system is not able to go out and apprehend them is astonishing. How much more broken can a system get before we do something about it?"
Michael Morrill, a Townsend campaign spokesman, said Ehrlich was "playing politics with children's deaths."
"This is so clearly politics that it stinks," Morrill said.
The cases of the three teens charged in the killings are just the latest example of juvenile violence that worries city officials. To help combat the problem, city and state officials said yesterday that police officers would soon join juvenile probation agents to check on troubled youths.
"It's appalling that kids who are supposed to be on home monitoring are murdering people," Mayor Martin O'Malley said. "We want joint teams going out and knocking on doors and making sure they're abiding by the terms of probation."
Robinson and other juvenile officials said statistics show that juvenile home monitoring has been successful, slightly revising statistics released by the agency's spokesman Tuesday.
During the first six months of this year, 76 percent of youths on home monitoring statewide completed the program without problems. Of those who did not complete the term of home detention, 3 percent were arrested for other crimes, 11 percent ran away and 7 percent violated terms of their detention in some other fashion, state officials said. The rest did not complete the program for various reasons.
Baltimore's program is less successful than those around the state -- 70 percent did not complete detention. State officials said 18 percent of Baltimore youths ran away, 2 percent were arrested and 2 percent violated terms of their detention.
In Baltimore, 99 out of 133 youths detained at home have anklets. Statewide, 321 of 412 wear them.
State officials said that youths are usually ordered on home detention by judges pending resolution of criminal cases.
The system works like this:
Once a youth is at home, a device the size of a pager is wrapped around the ankle. Another device, the size of a football, is connected to the phone line at the juvenile's home.
If the youth removes the anklet or leaves the house, the devices alert juvenile justice officials. Sometimes, the youth has fled; more likely, state officials say, the youth briefly walked outside.
If youths cut off their anklets or run away, juvenile officers must get a warrant or find a police officer to arrest the offender for violating terms of home detention, said Lee Towers, a juvenile justice spokesman.
Juvenile justice officers do not have arrest powers, he said.
Towers and other state officials declined to discuss the cases involving the three youths who escaped confinement at home and are charged in separate killings.
Armad Cloude, 14, has a lengthy juvenile record on drug charges and briefly spent time at the Charles H. Hickey Jr. School, a maximum-security facility in Baltimore County, law enforcement officials said.
Cloude performed dismally in a rehabilitation program at the school this year, so counselors recommended to state officials that the youth return to his mother, school reports show.
In April, Cloude was sent home by a judge in juvenile court pending the outcome of a criminal case. Cloude cut off his anklet and is charged with killing a 17-year-old during a robbery attempt in May.
Eugene Edwards, 14, who also has an extensive juvenile record for drugs, assault and other charges, was sent home on electronic monitoring in November. Four days later, he left home in the 2000 block of E. Chase St. and cut off his anklet, officials said.
On Jan. 12, he was arrested on drug charges and gave police officers a fake name, law enforcement officials said. He was released by a juvenile officer to his grandmother. The next day, Edwards was charged with killing an 18-year-old man.
In a highly publicized case, Tyrone Beane, 17, of the 700 block of Wharton Court is charged with killing a 25-year- old man in January after Beane had cut off his anklet.
Just days before the killing, Beane appeared in juvenile court. But a probation agent did not alert prosecutors or the judge to a recent adult arrest in which Beane is accused of beating a man in the face with a pistol and jamming it in his mouth.
Prosecutors said they would have urged the judge to detain Beane in a juvenile facility had they known about the arrest.