(4/19) Following a meeting with Department
of Juvenile Services Secretary Donald Devore, many Sabillasville area residents
said they would wait to see if the state follows through with promises made
during the meeting about the re-opening of Victor Cullen Academy for juvenile
Devore answered questions during the
meeting hosted by the Northwestern Frederick County Civic Association at
Sabillasville Elementary School on Monday, April 10.
Approximately 100 people will be employed
by the facility and plans are currently under way to try and open by this
summer. This year’s state budget allocates around $6.8 million dollars to
refurbish the academy.
Devore asked residents to volunteer to
participate in a committee to help draft a memorandum of understanding between
area residents and the state, putting the promises the state makes to the
community in writing.
“…I also know that the history of Victor
Cullen was one where a lot of promises were made to this community… not meeting
expectations relative to the protection of the community and the safety within
the facility,” Devore said.
Maryland Department of Juvenile Services Director Donald Devore spoke to
Northwestern Frederick County Civic Association recently about the state’s
plans to reopen the Victor Cullen Academy for juvenile offenders this summer.
he promised a “new day” with a substantial budget allocation from the state to
handle the re-opening appropriately and address the concerns of the community.
Around 50 people attended the meeting, in addition to reporters and several of
Devore’s staff. Members of the civic association and others came to hear the
plan for re-opening the academy for the third time. Managed at the time by a
private company, Victor Cullen was closed for the second time in 2002 when
concerns for the safety of the juveniles came to light.
During his speech, Devore made a
commitment that the new facility would house no more than 48 residents, a
substantial reduction from the over 200 juveniles formerly housed there. That
particular announcement made a few people, including civic association
president George Khun, say that made them feel a little better.
Devore’s proposal includes a change in the
state’s plan for juveniles that involves creating several small regional
treatment facilities around the state rather than sending the juveniles to
large facilities or, as is so often the case, to out-of-state facilities far
from home and family.
Devore also announced that the facility’s
juveniles would predominately be ages 13 to 17 and would not have committed any
seriously violent crimes, such as murder, rape or child molestation.
Security was of particular concern to area
residents who reminded the secretary of incidents where the juveniles escaped
in the past.
Assistant Secretary James Smith, in charge
of residential programs, responded to that concern by saying there would be
electronic surveillance of the grounds, a staff member who will walk the
perimeter every two hours, and special mesh fence that is impossible to climb.
Though Devore’s promises and demeanor
eased some discomfort, it was not enough for residents to forget the past. Many
residents stressed their concerns for their safety and their families’ safety
during the meeting. Following the meeting, several residents, like Mary Rae
Cantwell, weren’t ready yet to buy into the state’s promises.
“Wait and see,” Cantwell said when asked
her opinion of the evening’s meeting. “Wait and see.”