Cap urged for private juvenile justice facilities

March 11, 2009|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,

Maryland's private juvenile justice facilities should abide by the same 48-bed cap as state-run facilities, youth advocates and senators argued yesterday at a Senate hearing. Sen. Bobby A. Zirkin, a Baltimore County Democrat, pushed for a law to limit private facilities to 48 beds.

Last year, the General Assembly approved Zirkin's proposal to limit the number of youths at state-run facilities, a move endorsed by Department of Juvenile Services Secretary Donald W. DeVore. His department did not take a position on Zirkin's bill this year.

The latest proposal could have implications for Rite of Passage, a private company planning to reopen a large juvenile justice facility in Carroll County. The Nevada-based group recently won approval for 48 beds but would like the ability to expand in future years - possibly to 150 beds, said Jerry Adamek, a consultant for Rite of Passage who testified yesterday.

"We see ourselves as not as part of the problem, but as part of the solution," Adamek said. Youth advocates, including Jim McComb, director of Maryland Association of Resources for Family and Youth, said the state should preserve its commitment to smaller facilities.

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