Sophocleus would reopen center for juveniles

October 23, 1994|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Sun Staff Writer

The Careers Center, the highly touted county program for juvenile delinquents that fell victim last year to budget cuts, would reopen if Democrat Theodore J. Sophocleus is elected county executive.

Mr. Sophocleus pledged to open the center, which provided job training for troubled youth, as part of a four-point juvenile justice program that also would include using house arrest and weekend lockups for youths who violate the terms of their probation. He also proposed a work-study camp during the summer for juveniles on probation who don't have jobs or aren't attending classes.

"The record of the careers center is impressive. It's one of the most effective tools we have for fighting juvenile crime in the county," Mr. Sophocleus said at a news conference Friday in Glen Burnie.

Mr. Sophocleus' Republican opponent, John G. Gary, agreed that some program should be started to serve youths who have committed crimes, and claimed credit for coming out with his proposal before Mr. Sophocleus.

But he would prefer to see it privatized, much like the state's Charles H. Hickey Jr. School in Baltimore County, he said.

If that's not possible, he said he has discussed a proposal with officials from the state Department of Juvenile Services to start a joint program with money from the county and state.

"I think there's a benefit to us in the county to keep the kids in the county and possibly working with the parents" to address the problems that cause juvenile crime, Mr. Gary said.

The Careers Center, started by former County Executive Robert A. Pascal in 1978, was closed in June 1993.

County Executive Robert R. Neall eliminated the center's

$330,660 appropriation from the budget after citing figures from JTC a University of Maryland study that showed youths referred to the center when they were 13- or 14-years old were rearrested 70 percent of the time while still juveniles.

The study also showed older juveniles were rearrested 33 percent of the time, compared with 60 percent of all youths on probation who get into trouble again.

Mr. Neall also said at the time that juvenile justice is a state function and should be operated at that level.

George Surgeon, the former Careers Center director, said it never should have been closed.

"If you think there isn't a need for the Careers Center, all you have to do is turn to your daily newspaper," Mr. Surgeon said, holding up a stack of clippings referring to juvenile crime.

"It goes beyond my comprehension as to why the Careers Center was ever closed up," Mr. Surgeon said.

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