- The Washington Times - Friday, December 28, 2001

Maryland will end the juvenile-jail program at the Victor Cullen Academy in Western Maryland by June, and will instead place most of the youths under community-based supervision, Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend announced yesterday.
Under a new plan drafted by Juvenile Justice Secretary Bishop L. Robinson, Maryland will deal with high- and low-risk youth separately. The Cullen facility, in Sabillasville, will remain open and house 48 high-risk teens divided between two facilities. The other 158 teens considered a smaller threat to public safety will be evaluated and reincorporated into society with the help of counselors, who will monitor the youths' schooling and after-school activities.
"We are not sending them home," said Townsend spokesman Michael Sarbanes. "In some circumstances, we are talking about group homes and halfway houses; in others, we are looking at monitoring the youths using electronic devices."
The state will increase the number of 24-hour staff members at Cullen from six to 24 to oversee operations until its contract with Sarasota, Fla.-based Correctional Services Corp. ends June 30.
Escapes, accusations of abuse, understaffing, public complaints and an investigation into a teen-age fight club contributed to Mrs. Townsend's decision, Mr. Sarbanes said.
"The Department of Juvenile Justice completed an audit of the facility and outlined areas of improvement, and the contractor simply did not meet the requirements," Mr. Sarbanes said.
Calls to Glenn Stoudemire, who oversees the Cullen Academy for Correctional Services Corp., were not returned.
In November, Mrs. Townsend ordered the development of a new plan after finding the school remained short on security staff, teachers, food-service workers and recreation workers despite a promise by the company to correct the deficiencies.
The new plan will be implemented by August with two requests for proposals (RFP) to be sent out by March, Mr. Sarbanes said.
"One RFP will be for high-end services dealing with violent and mentally disturbed youth; the other will be for community-based programming for more low-risk individuals," he said.
The confinement program will cost about $3 million, while the community-based supervision will cost about $6 million, he said.
Mr. Sarbanes said the first priority is public safety and the safety of the teen-agers.
One of the biggest problems with the juvenile-justice system, he said, is the placement of teens who are mostly good with youths who have a long history of violence and antisocial behavior making good children essentially bad within the system's confines.
"That is an historic concern," Mr. Sarbanes said.
Group homes have been a problem in Maryland in recent years.
State lawmakers, concerned that administrators at the Germantown group home Crossroads failed to adequately supervise its residents, successfully called for the home to be shut down this February.
One of its residents was charged with taking a knife to school, and two others were charged with various crimes over 10 days last December.
Crossroads housed both juvenile offenders and youngsters removed from abusive situations. This is the sort of problem that Mr. Sarbanes said the administration is trying to avoid.
"The plan is to make sure kids who pose a risk are in an appropriate facility and the ones that don't get intensive community-based counseling and supervision," Mr. Sarbanes said.
The program's closure is the latest trouble for Mrs. Townsend, who coordinates the state's anti-crime efforts and who along with Gov. Parris N. Glendening promised in 1999 that the juvenile-justice system would be reformed.
Reports of abuses at the state's largest juvenile jails, including Cullen, this year led to the resignations of top officials at the facilities.

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