Maryland’s Charles H. Hickey Jr. School is beset by violence, some of it by staff, and conditions have not improved since a scathing report in May detailed 20 cases of child abuse and neglect at the juvenile detention facility, the Baltimore Sun reports.
The Office of the Independent Juvenile Justice Monitor recommended in September that the state consider firing the private contractor that operates Hickey, according to documents obtained by The Sun under a public records request. The monitor has backed off from that recommendation because the vendor’s five-year contract will expire in March.
The Hickey School, which serves 260 troubled boys, is run by Youth Services International, based in Sarasota, Fla. In the past year, the monitor’s office has chronicled instances of staff abuse, repeated youth-on-youth assaults, and staff bringing alcohol and pornography into the facility. The state began accepting bids several weeks ago for a new three-year pact. Bidding closes Jan. 23, and more than three dozen companies – including Youth Services – have expressed interest.
The monitor’s report said documented cases of youth-on-youth assaults and other violent incidents occur at the school 2.5 times a day on average. Opened in 1850 as the House of Refuge, Hickey houses some of the state’s most serious juvenile offenders. Some youths are in detention awaiting court dates; others have been committed there by judges.
Some legislators said the state must again assume control of Hickey if it is to ensure proper management. The school has been privately run since September 1991. “My plan would be to have a public system where no one under [Juvenile Services] is under the care of a private contractor,” said Del. Robert A. Zirkin, chairman of the House Judiciary subcommittee overseeing juveniles. “There is a monetary incentive to cut corners because a private contractor is a business, and there’s a bottom line,” he said.