Two Maryland judges says the state’s decision to close the Charles H. Hickey Jr. School for juvenile delinquents without a clear plan to replace it is jeopardizing the welfare of youths and putting public safety at risk, reports the Baltimore Sun. Baltimore County Circuit Judge Kathleen Cox and Anne Arundel Circuit Judge Pamela North told legislators that with Hickey about to close, there are not enough places to send tough young offenders who need to be removed from their homes to protect their safety and the community.
The Department of Juvenile Services for the first time identified nine facilities in other states where it intends to send some youths who would have gone to Hickey, the prison-like facility where advocates, lawmakers and government inspectors have long complained of poor conditions. Maryland youths will be sent to programs in Texas, Iowa, Indiana, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Ohio with rates ranging from $47,450 to $116,800 per child per year. The list includes three facilities run by a for-profit Texas-based company that, according to published reports, was forced to close one of its centers amid complaints of abuse. LaWanda Edwards, a state spokeswoman, said agency officials thoroughly investigated the out-of-state programs before approving them. Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. announced June 30 that the 144-bed secure program at Hickey, which serves the state’s toughest juvenile offenders, will be shut down by Nov. 30.