Denny Dodson, deputy director of the Juvenile Services Division, said state officials hope to save Salem and its staff by downgrading the facility to medium security while also focusing on efforts to expand the use of statewide youth reporting centers.
According to a plan Dodson submitted before he testified Friday, some of the preliminary changes to Salem include:
• Relocating female residents to the soon-to-be-renovated Kenneth Honey Rubenstein Juvenile Center in Davis. Currently, Salem is the only corrections facility in the state that can house female juveniles.
• Moving the most dangerous residents to the Chick Buckbee Juvenile Center in Augusta. Dodson said that no more than 10 or 15 children would be placed there and Jones agreed that moving those residents would help foster a less-restrictive environment at Salem.
• Redesigning many aspects of the Salem facility, including adding "wet cells," or cells with toilets and sinks, and removing locked doors on other cells so residents have access to the bathrooms
• Expanding the facility's mental-health services.
Officials also have taken steps to improve other aspects of the facility, Jones said. The cellblock once used for segregation is being repainted and converted into a recreation area. Jones also ordered new polo-shirt uniforms for the residents and staff and allowed the residents to decorate their rooms and have personal items.
The parties will meet again in the coming months to discuss changes to the facility's policies to deal with suicidal youth. Aboulhosn eventually will issue a final order on his findings.
Reach Zac Taylor at zachary.tay...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5189.