- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 16, 2003

ANNAPOLIS (AP) — State officials are considering replacing the operator of the Charles H. Hickey Jr. School, or taking over the facility, because of its history of failing to provide adequate services, a state official said.

“We are still looking at the Hickey contract, and in my communication with the governor’s office all of the options remain open,” Juvenile Services Secretary Kenneth Montague told state officials Tuesday.

Those options include hiring a new operator to run the Baltimore County juvenile detention facility before or after the contract expires in March with Correctional Services Corp./Youth Services International, a private contractor in Sarasota, Fla.

The state also could decide to take over the facility, Mr. Montague said.

Mr. Montague would not rule out rehiring the existing contractor, but said the firm had “a fairly limited time frame” to prove it was up to the job.

The state is drafting the specifications it will use to put the job up for bid in the coming months.

Mr. Montague’s briefing came after a state monitor’s report in June detailed more than 20 cases of child abuse and neglect over the past year, including instances of staff having sex with youths and bringing alcohol and pornographic materials into Hickey.

Hickey serves about 260 boys. Some are in detention awaiting court dates, while others have been sentenced there by judges. Hickey is known as a “deep-end” facility because it houses some of the state’s most serious juvenile offenders.

Mr. Montague also addressed the future of the Cheltenham Youth Facility, a Prince George’s County detention center that has been troubled by crowding, youth-on-youth assaults and inadequate staffing.

Mr. Montague said Cheltenham remains crowded — 199 boys in a center designed to hold no more than 180.

But he said the state has been reducing the amount of time juveniles spend there.

Cheltenham is not designed to hold juveniles more than 60 days because it provides minimal mental health and addiction services.

A May 19 internal population report obtained by the Baltimore Sun showed that 28 Cheltenham residents had been there at least 60 days, nine had been held more than 100 days and four more than 200 days.

Mr. Montague blames such long stays on the difficulty and cost of placing youths in outside treatment centers.

Some lawmakers, while applauding Mr. Montague for making progress, expressed frustration that Cheltenham remained open at all.

Delegate Joseph F. Vallario Jr., Prince George’s County Democrat and chairman of the House of Delegates Judiciary Committee, said the state committed 20 years ago to scaling down the center to 125 youths.

Mr. Montague said the state plans to cut Cheltenham’s population drastically. The process will be accelerated when a Baltimore detention center opens to youths in October.

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