As top administrators resigned from two of Maryland's largest jails for teen-age offenders, the chief of Maryland's Juvenile Justice Department said yesterday that reports of violence at the facilities were "misleading" and "inaccurate."
The resignations followed child advocacy groups' demand that Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend close one of the jails, Victor Cullen Center, and improve conditions at the other, Charles H. Hickey Jr. School.
The Sun reported in Sunday's editions that guards at the two facilities and at Cheltenham Youth Facility have assaulted youths in their care and that the jails lack effective mental health treatment.
Donald Brooks resigned as director of Hickey on Wednesday, the Juvenile Justice Department confirmed to the Associated Press. He took the job in July, making him the third director at the jail this year.
Richard Daugherty, clinical director of Victor Cullen Center, also resigned. Daugherty was responsible for administering the substance abuse program at the facility. Townsend said last week that she was considering closing the jail.
The two administrators were employees of Youth Services International, a subsidiary of Correctional Services Corp., a Florida-based company that operates Hickey in Baltimore County and Victor Cullen in Frederick County.
The company and the state have been at odds over staffing and services provided to delinquent youths. Youth Services officials did not return telephone calls seeking comment yesterday.
Bishop L. Robinson, secretary of the Department of Juvenile Justice, did not return a telephone message yesterday seeking comment about the resignations, nor did his spokeswoman.
Earlier in the day, Robinson criticized The Sun for its reporting of the assaults.
The newspaper based the Sunday article on documents called "critical incident reports" that were completed last year, the most recent the juvenile justice agency would make available.
Robinson has declined to be interviewed about violence at the facilities, but yesterday, in a letter to The Sun's editorial board, he said the article misled readers to believe the assaults occurred this year. The article states seven times that the incidents were last year. Before publishing the article, The Sun requested information about the number of reported assaults this year for comparison, but the request was denied.
The article said there were 93 reports of guards physically assaulting teens at Hickey, Victor Cullen Center and Cheltenham. Robinson said 84 reports were made, 24 of which were sustained.
Robinson said the newspaper also erred in stating the number of reported sexual assaults on teens by guards. The Sun said there were 12 cases. Robinson said there were seven.
The newspaper received from Robinson's department 28 reports of physical assaults at Hickey, 31 at Victor Cullen and 34 at Cheltenham, a total of 93.
The department also provided the newspaper with seven reports alleging sexual abuse at Victor Cullen, three at Hickey and two at Cheltenham, a total of 12.
In addition, the agency acknowledged that more than 200 reports documenting guards using force against teens were altered, destroyed or not completed.
"As I have stated previously, we will not tolerate abuse of our children," Robinson said in the letter. "We have made strong efforts to maintain our pledge that we will not tolerate abuse of our children."
He also said the department has improved training, which Sunday's article said was weak.