- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 6, 2001

ANNAPOLIS Juvenile Justice Secretary Bishop Robinson defended his department's handling of juvenile institutions, telling a legislative committee that substantial progress has been made in curbing abuses of young people.
"Not that I'm comfortable with the progress. There needs to be more," he said Tuesday.
But Mr. Robinson outlined a range of steps he has taken since he was brought in 20 months ago to straighten out the troubled juvenile justice system.
He said he has put child advocates in juvenile prisons, arranged for representatives of the Office of Children and Youth to monitor the institutions and required an investigation and written report on every incident involving possible abuse.
"Abuse will not be tolerated," Mr. Robinson said.
He was brought in to run the Department of Juvenile Justice in April 2000 after the Baltimore Sun reported that juveniles were being abused in a state camp in Western Maryland.
The newspaper recently reported that abuses continue in the system a charge that Mr. Robinson said is inaccurate.
"Some of the kids have stated that they have experienced some abuse or threats of abuse," he told the committee.
He said most of the incidents cited by the newspaper happened in 2000 and do not reflect what is happening now.
Much of the current controversy involves the Victor Cullen Academy in Frederick County. Mr. Robinson said he will recommend later this month whether the secure facility for juveniles should be closed or reduced in size to concentrate on young people with serious criminal records.
Victor Cullen is operated by Youth Services International, a private company based in Florida. State officials are displeased with the way the company has been running the 225-bed facility and may not extend the contract, which expires next year.
Delegate Nancy Kopp, chairman of the House Education and Economic Development subcommittee, said when private contractors were brought in to run some of the juvenile jails, "there was some thought privatization could make a difference."
"There are some of us who now think it doesn't make a difference one way or the other," said Miss Kopp, Montgomery County Democrat.
Mr. Robinson said private companies can successfully operate smaller institutions. He cited the O'Farrell Youth Center in Carroll County as an example of a well-run facility.
Mr. Robinson was the former head of the adult prison system and was popular with legislators, who gave him high marks for his handling of what is considered one of the most difficult jobs in state government.
He has maintained that credibility in his new position and got a sympathetic reception from the House subcommittee members as he related efforts to improve the way the state handles juvenile criminals.

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