Some state lawmakers want to know what the Division of Juvenile Services is going to do about a judge’s order impacting the Salem Industrial Home for Youth in Harrison County.
Mercer County Circuit Judge Omar Aboulhosn issued an order last month that severely criticized conditions at Salem, particularly in Building A. The judge said if the legislature didn’t do something he would.
Some members of the legislature questioned Division of Juvenile Services Director Dale Humphreys during a meeting Monday morning at the state capitol.
“The clear language of this order is–we (the legislature) either do it or the court’s going to do it for us. So I want to know if there’s a plan?” Sen. Bill Laird, D-Fayette, asked Humphreys.
The director said there is a future plan for changes at Salem but Judge Aboulhosn’s order may speed things up significantly. Humphreys says the division goes before the judge on Friday for clarification.
“We’re going to try and make this more clearer to us,” Humphreys said. “We couldn’t bring those changes to you because we (weren’t) aware of what they might be.”
Sen. Laird says it’s clear the judge wants something done starting with Building A.
“I feel burdened when I read that it’s incumbent upon the legislative branch to do something and we haven’t been asked to do anything,” Laird said.
In his Dec. 21 order Judge Aboulhosn said Salem follows a reform-school model with harsh tactics that harden the offenders’ attitudes and lead to higher recidivism.
He also ordered state officials to begin individual assessments to find out if any juveniles should be transferred to another home.
Director Humphreys says there are currently no plans to appeal the judge’s order or ask him to reconsider.
“We’re not objecting to anything actually. We feel this is moving our goals quicker,” he said. “It is what it is. They built a prison and we tried to make a juvenile facility out of it. That’s very difficult.”
Humphreys says one option may be to transfer the juveniles out of Salem and send them to other more modern juvenile facilities in the state. He says Salem could then be used for something else.