2 new juvenile centers proposed for city, Sykesville

December 02, 1992|By John W. Frece | John W. Frece,Staff Writer

The state's secretary for juvenile services proposed yesterday building new juvenile detention centers in Baltimore and Carroll County as part of a long-range plan to reduce the size and mix of young delinquents housed at the Charles H. Hickey Jr. School in Baltimore County.

Secretary Mary Ann Saar told a Senate committee that her department will ask the 1993 General Assembly to appropriate funds for a 96-bed facility in Baltimore and an 80-bed facility on the grounds of the Springfield Hospital Center in Sykesville, both to house juveniles awaiting trial.

Hickey currently houses juveniles who have been convicted of crimes and committed to serve time there as well as youngsters who have been arrested but not yet tried.

Critics have complained that Hickey's program has suffered because managers have been torn by the sometimes competing demands of a school and a rapid-turnover jail.

Mrs. Saar confirmed that the department intends to reduce the sizeof the troubled Hickey school in Cub Hill from approximately 360 youths to 288 by spring, and ultimately to move detainees to other facilities once they are built.

"Then Hickey will only be a program campus, not a detention or holding program," she said.

After a series of escapes and other problems at Hickey, the state late last month terminated its $17-million-a-year contract with Rebound Inc., the Colorado company that had been hired a little more than a year ago to run the school.

Mrs. Saar said that despite that unsuccessful experiment in privatization, her department has already revised its plan for Hickey, hoping to make it smaller and more selective in who is sent there. But because the department has not yet formally ZTC issued its solicitation for bids for a new operator, she declined to comment further about the revised plan for Hickey.

She told members of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee that until a new private operator is hired, which could be as early as April, Rebound's employees will be asked to stay on the job at Hickey with state contracts.

A Department of Juvenile Services' letter to potential bidders says that Hickey will be "re-designed for a population of approximately 288 male youth, aged 12 to 20 years." Under that plan, only 48 beds would be devoted to youth detained there awaiting trial.

Of the rest, 144 would be designated for a "long-term care program," 72 for a "90-day impact program" and 24 for a sex-offender program.

In addition to building the housing units in Baltimore and Sykesville, Mrs. Saar said, the department hopes to renovate a 15-bed cottage at the youth center in Cheltenham and build a new 15-bed facility somewhere on the Lower Eastern Shore.

Discussion of the department's building plans, however, prompted legislators to complain that the department was doing too little to prevent juveniles from getting into trouble with the law in the first place.

"Why do we have to wait until they cross the line before we can do something about it?" asked Del. Norman H. Conway, D-Wicomico. "Before we can give them help, do they have to break the law?"

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