Award to juvenile center prompts angry reaction O'Farrell inmate committed a rape

October 23, 1992|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Staff Writer

When a South Carroll center for juvenile delinquents was singled out last week as a national model for the treatment of young criminals, not everyone was impressed.

Carroll McCulloch, executive director of the Howard County Sexual Assault Center, said yesterday she was "absolutely horrified" to learn that the San Francisco-based National Council on Crime and Delinquency bestowed its first Excellence in Adolescent Care award on the Thomas O'Farrell Youth Center.

Ms. McCulloch said she was angered by the award because a 15-year-old O'Farrell resident who escaped supervision during a field trip raped a 27-year-old woman who was jogging in an Ellicott City park April 26, 1991.

Antonio Lee Perry, now 16, was sentenced to 15 years in state prison in July. He had been placed at O'Farrell by the state Department of Juvenile Services to undergo therapy for prior sexual offenses, including the rape of a 15-year-old girl.

The 38-bed residential facility -- which straddles the Howard and Carroll county lines in Marriottsville -- was recognized for its ability to keep its residents from returning to the criminal justice system after their release.

"I was absolutely horrified to learn of your Excellence in Adolescent Care award to the Thomas O'Farrell Youth Center," Ms. McCulloch wrote to Barry A. Krisberg, president of the organization that bestowed the award.

"I am certain that you are not aware of the full history of the center. . . . We hope that your council will realize that the center is not an appropriate example to the nation, and should not be the subject of your award," the letter said.

Mr. Krisberg, reached by telephone yesterday in his San Francisco office, said he will not reconsider the award.

"We were well aware of this event [the rape] before we gave the award, but it is a tragic event that cannot be 100 percent prevented," he said. "In my career in this field, I have never seen a better-run program."

He said that Maryland should "have six O'Farrells" to serve troubled youths.

"I really sympathize with the victim, but I look at the future victims down the line," Mr. Krisberg said. "If Maryland doesn't support programs like O'Farrell, there will be many, many more victims."

Donald Williams, O'Farrell's clinical director, said Ms. McCulloch's criticism of his center is unfair.

"It's regrettable that one incident would cloud a whole program," Williams said.

If Mr. Krisberg's organization believes O'Farrell to be a model for the nation, there is firm disagreement from Ms. McCulloch, the rape victim and the Howard Circuit Court judge who sentenced Perry in the rape case.

"Mr. Perry has been in the grasp of the state of Maryland since he was 12 years old, and the state's pathetic system has failed to respond even 1 percent to a crying social need," said Circuit Judge James B. Dudley before he sentenced Perry, who was charged as an adult.

"We have a demonstrated, pathetic, dangerous juvenile in state custody, who while in custody commits a more heinous offense," Judge Dudley said.

The rape victim filed a $10 million lawsuit against the state Department of Juvenile Services, claiming that the state was negligent in allowing a "known rapist" to wander unsupervised that afternoon in Centennial Park.

She also is seeking $20 million from the North American Family Institute, the Massachusetts-based company that runs the O'Farrell Center for the state.

Ms. McCulloch said that by upholding the award, Mr. Krisberg's organization is demeaning the horror of sexual assault.

"What this says is that a single incident of brutal rape is acceptable in this society," she said. "I think that's outrageous.

"If the O'Farrell Center is the best in the country, then that says something terrible about the whole juvenile criminal justice system in our country."

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