Top choice in juvenile services

High-ranking Conn. official apparently to become department secretary

February 03, 2007|By Justin Fenton and Andrew A. Green | Justin Fenton and Andrew A. Green,Sun Reporters

Gov. Martin O'Malley is expected to name a high-ranking Connecticut official as his secretary of juvenile services, sources familiar with the decision said yesterday, giving the agency a new leader as it grapples with a teenager's death at a privately run Carroll County residential facility regulated by the state.

Donald W. Devore, Connecticut's juvenile justice director, has been identified as the top choice of the O'Malley administration to head the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services, said the sources, who didn't want to be identified pending the official announcement. An announcement could come as soon as next week.

Former Baltimore Health Commissioner Dr. Peter L. Beilenson had also been considered a candidate for the position, the sources said, but he was notified this week that Devore was the choice. Beilenson declined to comment, referring questions to the governor's office.

Rick Abbruzzese, a spokesman for O'Malley, declined to comment yesterday evening.

Devore could not be reached for comment.

His selection could represent a change in direction for the agency. His background is largely in juvenile justice instead of treatment.

While heading the Connecticut agency, Devore agreed two years ago to become an independent monitor for two juvenile justice facilities in Maryland that had been cited for violations by the U.S. Department of Justice. Those facilities - Charles H. Hickey Jr. School in Baltimore County and the Cheltenham Youth Center in Prince George's County - have been downsized.

Devore resigned from the Maryland post under pressure from Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell, according to news reports. Shortly thereafter, more than 250 Connecticut employees signed a petition urging Rell to call on Devore to step down from his position there. They said that Devore had worsened a situation of "corruption and neglect" through a lack of programmatic and clinical direction for the care of troubled youth.

But he is also regarded as one of the nation's leading juvenile justice consultants. He served as a federally appointed court monitor in Connecticut and Oregon and was widely credited with upgrading juvenile detention centers in those states.

State monitors and federal authorities have issued damning reports about conditions inside Maryland's juvenile detention facilities, pointing to out-of-control violence, inadequate staffing, a lack of programs and other problems.

Authorities are investigating the death of a youth who died while being restrained at the Bowling Brook Preparatory School, a privately run residential program for juvenile offenders.

The 17-year-old had been placed there by the Department of Juvenile Services. His death has raised questions about state law governing privately run facilities, the training required of the staff and the way the state monitors and regulates such programs.

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