Residents sound off on Hickey proposal Two treatment centers planned for school create concerns in Cub Hill

December 18, 1998|By Dail Willis | Dail Willis,SUN STAFF

A plan to treat juvenile sex offenders and emotionally disturbed youth at the Charles H. Hickey Jr. School in Cub Hill drew sharp questions from residents at a community meeting last night.

About 40 people attended the monthly meeting of the Carney Improvement Association to express concerns about neighborhood safety if two residential treatment centers are added to the Hickey campus.

State Sen. Thomas L. Bromwell, the Democrat whose 8th District includes the Hickey school, held the floor for much of the meeting, fielding detailed questions from the audience.

"The major concern is the security in the area," said Milton Miecznikoski, a Cub Hill resident for nearly 40 years. "Thirty years ago, I could hire the kids out of the school to work on my lawn."

"You could today," countered Bromwell.

"I wouldn't dare," Miecznikoski replied.

Other residents who spoke expressed concerns about housing sex offenders and emotionally disturbed young people at the school.

"These people should not be at this school," said Vincent Farrell, a Glen Arm resident.

Bromwell told residents that sex offenders and emotionally disturbed youth have been at Hickey for years. The only change, he said, would be the creation of a program to treat them.

"The bottom line is, right now there is no place to put them," Bromwell said of the offenders who will be treated at Hickey.

The regularly scheduled meeting followed the disclosure that the state Department of Juvenile Justice is planning to add two residential treatment centers to the Hickey campus, which now houses about 300 juvenile offenders.

The school, opened as a House of Refuge in 1850, is state-owned but has been operated since 1993 by YSI Inc., a private company operating under a five-year contract with the Department of Juvenile Justice. That contract is up for bid for the next five years, and the new centers were described in state documents released early last month as part of the bidding process.

The centers, estimated to cost about $2.6 million a year to operate, would treat juvenile sex offenders and juvenile violent offenders. The sex-offender treatment center would have 26 or 27 beds, according to the Department of Juvenile Justice, and the violent-offender unit would have 24.

Previous proposals to locate such treatment centers in Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital in Baltimore County and Taylor Manor in Howard County were scrapped after strong local opposition.

State juvenile-justice authorities say that the need to treat these offenders has become pressing -- in part because the state wants to end the practice of sending them out of state for help -- and Hickey is the only remaining viable location.

Supporters of the treatment centers also say that they would allow the state to get Medicare funding for the treatment of violent and sex offenders.

But child advocates and some area residents say the two treatment centers would radically alter the mission of the school from a training facility to a psychiatric one. Such a change would break a long-standing state promise to area residents not to put violent and sex offenders at the campus, they say, and might not represent the best way to treat such offenders.

Pub Date: 12/18/98

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