BALTIMORE - Opponents of a plan to build a new youth jail in Baltimore City are getting some high-powered help.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson came to Baltimore to speak out against the project Thursday night.
Activists say the city needs more money for recreation programs and to provide jobs -- not for a new youth jail.
Hundreds chanted “Reallocate, recreate!” at a rally inside the War Memorial Building.
They say money the state plans to use to build a new youth detention facility would better spent on programs that might keep young people out of jail.
“The money that is being used to build a youth jail could be used in a way better way, and that's to bring opportunity to Baltimore City, for the youth of Baltimore,” said Samara Johnson, one of the organizers of the event.
Rev. Jackson says he met with Governor O'Malley earlier Thursday. Then he addressed the crowd.
“Not construct a detention center, reconstruct 10,000 houses. Let the people go to work,” he said.
The governor and other leaders say the current facility, on Gay Street, is too small and poorly designed -- leading to dangerous conditions for the youths detained there and for the staff.
The new $80-million facility would be built on what's now a parking lot near Central Booking. Rev. Jackson says a new jail is not the answer. “We must find jobs doing real work, not detaining people unnecessarily,” he said.
Especially, he says, when for many city youths a trip to the detention center is anything but a deterrent to future crime.
“This jail becomes a hotel. A homeless shelter. And we should not let people find a comfort zone in detention,” he said.
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