Tare E. Buck
(5/6) The long-term fate of the Victor
Cullen Center is as yet unknown, but local residents fear that they are being
kept out of the loop as the state decides what to do with the empty juvenile
“We’re saying, ‘It’s a new ball game.’ The state has a responsibility to let
this community know what the future plans are,” said Karl Weissenbach, director
of the Cascade Committee and a member of the Victor Cullen Community Advisory
Mr. Weissenbach pointed to the center’s checkered past with inmate escapes and
other headaches, along with a supposed history of keeping local residents in
the dark when decisions about Cullen were made.
The state closed the center’s doors in 2002, not long after failures of a
private contractor — Youth Services International — which ran the facility,
came to light.
Since that time, the Ehrlich administration took office and the former
Department of Juvenile Justice saw its name changed to the Department of
Juvenile Services (DJS).
A DJS spokeswoman, LaWanda Edwards, said Monday the state, for the moment, has
no plans for the site.
“There are no plans at the moment,” Ms. Edwards said. “There’s nothing in our
budget that dictates that. So that, to me, is a good sign. ... It’s certainly
not something we are looking to deal with at the moment. In the future, we’re
going to have to eventually think about something.”
That doesn’t stop rumors from persisting throughout the local community. Mr.
Weissenbach said he has heard stories ranging from the state’s plans to change
the site into an adult detention center, to the possibility of re-opening the
facility for juveniles but on a smaller scale than the former cramped quarters.
Ms. Edwards said she had “no knowledge of that,” when asked if the site could
be transferred out of DJS and become an adult detention facility.
Still, doubts remain.
“There’s a lot of mistrust about Victor Cullen,” Mr. Weissenbach said. “And the
community should be involved. The community should be heard as to what is
appropriate for that particular site.
“If it’s not going to be a 48-bed facility, then what are they going to do with
it? Those are the kinds of questions we are asking the state,” he said.
Mr. Weissenbach said the most recent legislative session included the passage
of a Senate bill that limits the department’s contracts with private vendors
for services to three years.
More specifics, however, are not mentioned in the bill and the only facility
the bill actually mentions by name is the Charles H. Hickey Jr. School, a
similar treatment center to Cullen near Baltimore.
What the bill means to Cullen’s future is also uncertain.
Ms. Edwards said work on the master plan has yet to begin and but that the
completed document will enable “us to be able to tell what we’d like (DJS) to
look like 10 years from now. That would include everything, programs, that’s
everything. But, as of now, there’s nothing” on the department’s radar as far
as Cullen is concerned.
“Nothing’s been put together,” she repeated. “There is no plan.”
Mr. Weissenbach still wishes to remind the state that his group and other
residents are anxiously awaiting any news.
He also said the site may well serve the state in other ways besides detention,
for adults or juveniles.
“We don’t want to wake up one morning and find out they’re putting in some kind
of adult detention center or something,” he said. “That’s the way things have
been always been done there. We’re always the last to know. And all we’re
saying is, the state needs to sit down with the community and let us be
involved in the process.”
The Victor Cullen Center long ago was also a tuberculosis treatment center. As
one of the state’s juvenile treatment centers, the site housed 209 beds and
also included a 16-bed transitional living program, Ms. Edwards said.
Juveniles from the ages of 14 to 20 were cared for under 24-hour supervision.
The site’s average daily population was close to 225 juveniles, she said, and
its maximum capacity was 337.
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