- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 30, 2002

Officials of the District's Oak Hill Youth Detention Center near Jessup, Md., have agreed to notify local police and community authorities of escapes, according to the congressman who represents the area.
Stacy Farnen, a spokeswoman for Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, said Mr. Hoyer has pushed since July to have D.C. Youth Services Administration officials agree to notify local police and communities about escapes.
The agreement requires Oak Hill officials to notify the police departments in Anne Arundel, Prince George's and Howard counties, the city of Laurel, the Maryland State Police, and the U.S. Park Police of escapes from the facility. Currently, only the Park Police, who have jurisdiction because Oak Hill is on federal property, must be notified.
The agreement also requires Oak Hill to notify residents in neighboring communities of escapes.
Oak Hill officials are scheduled to sign the agreement tomorrow.
"Mr. Hoyer wanted to strengthen the agreement because of the large number of escapes from the facility," and because of the danger they pose to the people who live and work near there, Miss Farnen said.
The Washington Times first reported Jan. 21 that 22 of the 122 youths held at Oak Hill have escaped during the past nine months. A dozen are still at large; one was found fatally shot Dec. 3.
Youth Services Administrator Gaye Turner yesterday said the old agreement had lapsed and that the new agreement will stipulate procedures already being done.
"It will formalize the contacts. There aren't any new parties involved," Mrs. Turner said.
Oak Hill houses D.C. juveniles who have been found guilty of serious crimes or are awaiting trial.
However, she said the new agreement will not require notification about youths who escape while away from Oak Hill, such as the three who escaped last summer while attending the Soap Box Derby in the District.
"This would not cover things happening in the city. It coordinates law enforcement near the facility at Oak Hill," Mrs. Turner said.
Miss Farnen said Mr. Hoyer has been working on the new agreement and has been increasingly frustrated because escapes continue at Oak Hill. She said Mr. Hoyer met last year with Mrs. Turner and George Perkins, her deputy and superintendent of Oak Hill, about the escapes and was assured they would not continue.
Mr. Hoyer was especially concerned that three youths had escaped while participating in the Soap Box Derby in June and then again in September, Miss Farnen said. Two of the escapees were quickly caught; the third was captured while trying to steal a car.
The congressman "wanted to be certain this doesn't happen again," Miss Farnen said.
"He talked to [Youth Services administrators] in general that they are not keeping these kids in a secure environment."
Corrections Officer Robert Miller said notification is necessary because youths who escape from Oak Hill could harm someone.
"The kids who go out of here are dangerous. They could come up on some and try to steal their car to get away and kill them," said Mr. Miller, chairman of the D.C. Fraternal Order of Police Labor Committee, which represents Oak Hill corrections officers.
Corrections officers blame the high number of escapees on their superiors, who they say don't understand how dangerous the youths are or how serious the crimes were that landed the youths in Oak Hill. Many of the juveniles would have spent 20 years in prison if they had been convicted as adults.
D.C. Council member Sandy Allen, Ward 8 Democrat and chairman of the Committee on Children Youth and Families, said Oak Hill's management should be replaced because of continued security problems.
Carolyn Graham, deputy mayor for children, youth and families, said in an interview a week ago that The Times' report about Oak Hill escapes was "scurrilous" and that the escapes could have been acts of "sabotage." She offered no evidence to support that theory.
Ms. Graham said there is no need to change the facility's management.
Mrs. Turner blamed security lapses on the Oak Hill staff because officials had told staffers to be more vigilant and check the facility's perimeter more often.
Mr. Miller said statements made by the officials show they are out of touch with reality. "They are grabbing at straws. I wouldn't sabotage my own job," he said. "That is where their mind-set is."

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