I’ve been involved with youth mentoring for more than a decade in the Baltimore City area and I’ve long concluded that I receive much more than I can ever give the young people that I’ve been blessed to connect with. This is particularly true of youth that I’ve mentored who are incarcerated. There’s a special place in my heart for young men in particular who are in chains and shackles in any one of the state’s “rehabilitation” facilities. When I think of the young men that I’ve been blessed to connect with over the years at the Charles Hickey School in Baltimore County, “Baby Bookings” on Gay Street in the city, and now Eager Street Academy; I think of brilliance behind bars. Without exaggeration I’ve met some of the most creative, intelligent, reflective, caring, giving, and gifted young men throughout my years of mentoring incarcerated youth.
Usually, at some point during one of my first sessions with this population of young men, I end up telling them that they are making people wealthy by being in the situation that they are in. I talk about how there are forces in society that not only celebrate their incarceration, but help create the conditions that make their incarceration more likely in an effort to increase profit margins.
Up until recently, when I would tell incarcerated youth that they are making other people wealthy by getting involved with the penal system, I would always have an amorphous “they” in mind. That is to say that while I knew this group of profiteers were out there, I wasn’t able to point to a specific somebody and say, “Mr. XXX” is getting rich off of you….but now that’s all changed.
Since really devoting myself to joining with others to struggle against Governor Martin O’Malley’s plans to build a $104 Million Dollar Youth Jail in East Baltimore; I’ve uncovered information that helps identify some of the parties that are profiting off of the incarceration of Black Youth in Baltimore. This by no means is an exhaustive list. I’m sure there are other groups/individuals cashing in this modern-day form of slavery and as I uncover them I’ll share them, but I’ll start with the most obvious groups for now.
Let’s start with the Berg Corporation.
According to a December 2007 Maryland Board of Public Works Agenda Summary (Item # 17), the Berg Corporation, and its CEO, David Berg, were paid $2,261,929.00 for the demolition of the existing structure that was located on the site where O’Malley’s Youth Jail is slated to be built. Today, the Berg Corporation’s banner proudly waves on the long fence surrounding the cleared land and they were so excited about their work that they posted this video of the demolition on their company website.
The next corporation that is profiting off of the incarceration of Black youth in Baltimore is the architecture and engineering firm, PSA Dewberry. Headquartered in Fairfax, Virginia, PSA Dewberry was selected by the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services to design O’Malley’s Youth Jail. In November 2008, they were paid $7,595,347.35 by the Maryland Board of Public Works to design the latest incarceration facility.
Other members of the consulting team who are benefiting financially from the incarceration of Black Youth in Baltimore include Penza Bailey Architecture, Carter Goble Lee, WFT Engineering, EBA Engineering, Sidhu Associates, R&R Design, and Hope Furrer Associates located in Towson, Maryland.
So the next time I visit with my mentees, I’ll be able to show them pictures and give them specific information about those who are profiting off of their incarceration. In addition to showing them pictures of the members of the State Board of Public Works; I’ll be able to show them pictures of the men below. I’ll ask them if they notice anything about these men who serve as Executives at the firms connected to Governor O’Malley’s Youth Jail. Then I’ll ask them to look around the room and describe the picture they see with their own eyes about who makes up the overwhelming majority of inmates. I’ll ask them to read, study, analyze, and reflect on the pictures and the amount of money being thrown around to build these facilities. I’m sure that they’ll draw some brilliant conclusions about who is really profiting off of the incarceration of Black Youth in Baltimore.
Can you think of any others who profit from the incarceration of Black Youth in Baltimore?