Head of juvenile jail is demoted

Staffer impregnated teen on work detail

July 17, 1999|By Todd Richissin | Todd Richissin,SUN STAFF

The superintendent of a state-run juvenile jail in Prince George's County lost his job yesterday, three weeks after the discovery that a teen-ager at the facility became pregnant by a counselor assigned to guard her, officials said.

Carlton Richardson, who had run the Cheltenham Youth Center for three years, was demoted and transferred to headquarters of the state Department of Juvenile Justice, said Bob Kannenberg, spokesman for the agency.

"The young lady and the staff member had been having relations while she was involved in a work detail at the school on the grounds," Kannenberg said.

He said the pregnancy was discovered June 25 and that state police were called to investigate the same day.

The incident came to light at a particularly embarrassing time for the department, days after Gilberto DeJesus, its secretary, promised legislators he would hold the private managers of two other juvenile jails -- the Charles H. Hickey Jr. School in Baltimore County and Victor Cullen Academy in Frederick County -- to a higher standard. Cheltenham is operated by the state.

Juvenile justice officials have been reeling from three weeks of events:

On June 25, The Sun reported that the department had tended to lock up black delinquents with mental health needs rather than treat them, while a greater percentage of white delinquents received help.

The same day, a staff member at the Hickey School was raped by an inmate after he was left guarded by a dishwasher.

Within a week, five juveniles escaped from Hickey and Victor Cullen, supposedly Maryland's most secure juvenile facilities.

Officials with the Juvenile Justice Department disclosed the pregnancy and Richardson's demotion only after being contacted about it by The Sun. Richardson did not return phone calls.

Stacey Gurian-Sherman, an attorney and member of the Maryland Juvenile Justice Coalition, a statewide advocacy group, said she was appalled that a staff member had impregnated an inmate but added that she was also disturbed at the response from juvenile justice officials.

When the staff member at Hickey was raped, she said, the officials made the incident public, offered explanations and promised to improve security.

"When [the latest incident] happened, they never even acknowledged it and wouldn't have if they weren't made to," Gurian-Sherman said. "We should be as equally outraged about this as people were about the rape at Hickey. There's absolutely no excuse for this."

The pregnant woman, who has been moved to another facility, was an inmate in the Young Women's Program at Cheltenham. She is 18 and began having sexual relations with the counselor after she legally became an adult, Kannenberg said.

The counselor was fired the day officials discovered that the inmate was pregnant, but they have not filed criminal charges against the counselor, who had worked at Cheltenham for a year.

Kannenberg said the counselor might benefit from a loophole in the law. He said it is illegal for a state corrections officer to have sex with an inmate but that there apparently is no Maryland law prohibiting state youth counselors from having sex with someone in their charge.

"We'll be looking toward drafting legislation that would make it a crime," Kannenberg said.

Richardson was removed from his post, Kannenberg said, after it became clear that the sexual relations were allowed to occur because state policies were not being followed. Cheltenham holds more than 300 delinquents, and as of yesterday 18 of them were in the Young Women's Program.

Female inmates are not supposed to be on work detail unless there is a staff member present who is specifically assigned to that program, Kannenberg said. The counselor who had sex with her was assigned to another part of the facility, he said.

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