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All inmates relocated from troubled juvenile center in Salem

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A troubled juvenile treatment center in Harrison County has officially relocated all of its inmates, two and a half months after a judge ordered it shut down because of widespread safety problems.

In July, Circuit Judge Omar Aboulhosn ordered that all inmates at the Harriet B. Jones Treatment Center in Salem be moved to other facilities by Sept. 30 after hearing about ongoing safety issues, including multiple allegations of sexual assault at the facility.

The final 16 inmates, who were all undergoing court-ordered treatment for sex offenses, were transferred to the Sam Perdue Juvenile Center in Mercer County on Thursday, according to a news release from the Division of Juvenile Services.

Earlier this week, "wellness patients" -- inmates who require behavioral and mental health treatment -- were moved to the James H. "Tiger" Morton Juvenile Center in Dunbar.

Aboulhosn had cited the commingling of sex offenders and wellness patients at the Harriet B. Jones Center as a primary reason for shutting it down.

"To find out today that we have a 15-year old wellness individual in the same unit as a 20-year-old juvenile sex offender is beyond the pale," Aboulhosn said in July. "It's a bad idea, it's a terrible idea. It is horrific to think that that's going on."

The Harriet B. Jones Center is the second juvenile center in Salem that the state has shuttered this year. It closed the Industrial Home for Youth, which is on the same site, on July 1, amid widespread problems and accusations that the facility was housing juveniles like adult prisoners.

Some of the inmates from the Industrial Home, which had been the state's only maximum-security juvenile facility, were relocated to Harriet B. Jones, which created new problems.     

The Industrial Home and Harriet B. Jones both closed after lawsuits filed on behalf of inmates by Mountain State Justice, a public-interest law firm based in Charleston.

"I'm pleased to announce that the move of all residents from the Harriet B. Jones Treatment Center has been accomplished in compliance with the most recent court order from Judge Omar Aboulhosn," acting Juvenile Services Director Stephanie Bond said in a statement.

The closure of Harriet B. Jones clears the way for the Industrial Home to be converted into an adult prison. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin proposed that change during the 2013 legislative session, but it was held up because, with Harriet B. Jones still open, adult inmates could not be housed so close to juveniles.

Division of Corrections Commissioner Jim Rubenstein said in a statement that adult male inmates would begin moving into the former Industrial Home within the next couple weeks.

The Industrial Home facility is expected to provide room for about 400 adult offenders, somewhat mitigating West Virginia's ongoing prison overcrowding crisis.

State prisons are currently about 1,600 prisoners over capacity. Those prisoners are being housed in regional jails, facilities that were not designed for long-term stays.  

Reach David Gutman at david.gutman@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5119.

 


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