Director of Hickey School replaced by prison official

Added security measures planned after incidents

October 02, 1999|By Todd Richissin | Todd Richissin,SUN STAFF

The executive director of the Charles H. Hickey Jr. School, a state juvenile institution in Baltimore County, was replaced yesterday as officials announced more than $900,000 in security enhancements to increase safety.

Norman Townsel Jr. took over the facility in June, arriving the day after one of its nurses was raped in a clinic there. Three days after Townsel arrived, two juveniles escaped by kicking out a window screen. But state officials said yesterday the incidents were not the reason Townsel was removed.

"A person in that particular job has to be a dynamic leader. " said Walter G. R. Wirsching, an assistant secretary in the Department of Juvenile Justice. "We were concerned about that and really wanted someone there who would bring a more dynamic presence."

Townsel could not be reached for comment.

His successor is Marjorie Brown, a corrections official with 21 years experience in the Illinois adult justice system. She takes over Friday.

The state's largest facility for delinquent youth with a capacity of 355 inmates, Hickey is privately operated by Youth Services International of Sarasota, Fla. The company's public image suffered, and it received threats from the state legislature after the rape at Hickey and two separate escape incidents.

Within the span of a week, the nurse was raped; the two youths escaped; and three juveniles escaped from the Victor Cullen Academy, another juvenile institution run by Youth Services for the state in Frederick County.

In a telephone interview from her home in Springfield, Ill., Brown said she would work to increase programming at Hickey. She said all of her formal experience in the justice field has been with adults but that she has worked as a volunteer for years with troubled youths.

In addition to hiring a new executive director, the state Department of Juvenile Justice plans to spend $904,000 in security enhancements at the 215-acre facility. Taxpayers will pick up $526,000 of the cost with Youth Services paying the remainder.

After the summer incidents, state officials asked Youth Services to increase security or risk losing its contract. The company is in the first year of a five-year, $78.5-million contract to run Hickey.

Pub Date: 10/02/99

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