After an intense debate – and over the objections of the state comptroller – the Maryland Board of Public Works approved a Nevada company called Rite of Passage to reopen the Bowling Brook Preparatory School for juvenile delinquents. The Baltimore Sun reports that youth advocates and state legislators criticized the Department of Juvenile Services for rushing forward with a plan that could result in a 173-bed, privately run facility, which they said contradicts the state’s juvenile justice strategy of 48-bed regional treatment centers.
Bowling Brook, run for 50 years by a nonprofit company, was shut down after death last year of a boy, 17, who was reportedly restrained for three hours. Former counselors complained after the death that the sharp rise in population – from 70 in 2001 to 170 in 2007 – contributed to an employee culture that came to include aggressive and dangerous disciplinary techniques. “I want to make sure that no juvenile facilities, public or private, are even close to the size they are talking about here,” said state Sen. Bobby Zirkin. “There will be ramifications, serious ramifications, if this deal goes through.”