Maryland will close the nearly century-old Charles H. Hickey Jr. School, the prison-like youth facility in Baltimore County where advocates, lawmakers, and government inspectors have long complained of unsafe conditions and ineffective rehabilitation of the toughest juvenile offenders, reports the Baltimore Sun. Most of the school will close Nov. 30, when youths in the 130-bed long-term residential program are transferred to smaller, private programs or sent home for services in their communities. “It was intolerable. You talk about a violation of constitutional rights – it was a living model in what a system should not become,” Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. said.
U.S. Justice Department officials said yesterday that they were ending a three-year investigation of the state, having come to an agreement with the Ehrlich administration for reforms at Maryland’s youth facilities. State officials have agreed to improvements including better suicide prevention programs, medical and mental health care, fire safety and special education. Under the agreement, jointly selected monitors will report on the state’s progress and will be given access to the facilities, youths, and staffs. The monitoring will continue for three years but can be lifted after 18 months if the state demonstrates substantial compliance. Hickey’s closure was not required by the agreement.