7 youths captured after escape from Hickey School

June 06, 1994|By Melody Simmons | Melody Simmons,Sun Staff Writer

Seven juveniles on their way to church escaped from the Charles H. Hickey Jr. School in Baltimore County yesterday morning after they threw pepper in the faces of a bus driver and three youth counselors, Maryland State Police said.

Six of the youths were captured by the state police shortly after the 10:14 a.m. incident. The seventh youth was caught at 3:50 p.m.

State police and school officials did not identify the fugitives from the state's school for juvenile offenders because they are juveniles. All are convicted juvenile delinquents, said Joan Stephens, vice president for Youth Services International, a private firm that signed a five-year, $80 million contract with the state Department of Juvenile Services last year to operate the facility.

The escape took place while 48 students were being driven across the 300-acre campus on a bus to attend church, Ms. Stephens said.

"It was Sunday, and we have to certainly address their spiritual needs," she said.

When the driver, Randy Lee Rhodes, was attacked with the black pepper, he lost control of the vehicle. The bus ran off the road into a ditch, prompting the escape, Ms. Stephens said.

Some of the 41 students who did not escape were treated for minor injuries from the accident, she added. The driver and three youth counselors also were treated for minor injuries.

"An incident such as this, we consider unfortunate, but we believe that the majority of students understand the opportunity that's being provided to them and that is evident by the 41 students on the bus who did not make an attempt to leave the campus," Ms. Stephens said. "They stayed on the bus and acted in an appropriate manner."

It was the second escape at the school since Youth Services International was hired last year, Ms. Stephens said. The other escape took place in July during the first week that the organization ran the facility.

The school, with an enrollment of 303 juvenile offenders from all over the state, has been known for chronic escapes. Rebound Inc., the former private company that ran the facility under a three-year, $50 million contract, experienced regular escapes from the facility's pretrial detention units and the intake unit for juvenile offenders.

All of the students who escaped yesterday were assigned to a high-security area cordoned off by barbed-wire fences on the east side of the Hickey school, Ms. Stephens said. They were being driven to the less secure west side of the school to attend services in an interdenominational chapel.

It was uncertain whether charges would be filed against the students, she said.

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