Closure of Samarkand Resisted
Efforts continue in Raleigh to prevent the shutdown of Samarkand Youth Development Center.
Those resisting the closure point out that it would present a logistical problem when it comes to accommodating the number of young people assigned to residential facilities.
Samarkand, with historic ties to Moore County, is among the facilities targeted for closure in the budget prepared by the state House of Representatives. The budget is now in the state Senate, which released its budget Tuesday and is scheduled to vote on the measure May 31.
"We're still working on it, but it's already out of our hands," said state Rep. Jamie Boles in a telephone interview Tuesday.
This is the second time Boles has gone to bat to save the youth facility at Eagle Springs. In his previous term, Boles was instrumental in persuading the governor and fellow legislators not to close Samarkand.
Boles said that there is not much he can do at this point but that personnel in the N.C. Department of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention are supporting their lobbying efforts with hard facts.
"With the closing of Samarkand Youth Development Center, coupled with the loss of staff positions, we simply will not have the ability to appropriately serve the number of youths committed to the department," said Kathy Dudley, the department's deputy secretary for facility operations.
Dudley said the closing of Samarkand would leave the agency 50 beds short in accommodating current needs and up to 75 beds short according to projections for the 2012 fiscal year.
Samarkand currently accommodates 24 males, and two more students are expected within a week, according to Tammy Martin, NCDJJDP director of communications. She said the facility at Eagle Springs is equipped to serve as many as 30 young people but is not presently filled to capacity because of staffing issues.
"This particular area of alarm presents a complex and layered devastation," Martin said. "It not only decreases the number of available beds for committed youths, but it also reduces staff and treatment options."
Martin said the real problem will be finding a place for the 75 children without beds if Samarkand is closed.
"Please remember, these youths have committed serious and violent offenses. Where will they go? What will they do?" said Dudley.
In the last cost-cutting endeavor two years ago, the state budget included closure of Swannanoa Valley Youth Development Center and transferred staff positions to other centers to enable the agency to expand capacity with less overall cost. But this time there is no alternative for transfer of staff or students.
"Treatment teams will face the difficult decisions concerning having to release youth sooner because we won't have a place for them," Dudley said.
The budget originating in the House this year indicates that closure of Samarkand would save the state more than $3.1 million, including the elimination of 57 positions.
"The Samarkand Youth Development Center provides the department with bed capacity needed to accommodate system population fluctuations and provides the department the ability to provide specialized mental health treatment, vocational education, intensive special education, and individualized occupational course of study programming," said Jean M. Sandaire, legislative affairs program manager.
Sandaire said closing Samarkand would eliminate 30 beds and eliminate 57 staff positions.
Closure of the Swannanoa Valley center earlier this year eliminated 48 youth beds. Sandaire said that after both closures, the department would have staffing and operating funds for 329 beds in the 2011-12 fiscal year. She said the department has never had a committed youth average population below 387.
An N.C. Sentencing and Policy Advisory Commission Report released to the legislature in February contains these projections: 404 beds needed for fiscal year 2011; 396 for 2012; 405 for 2013. In the current fiscal year, the average daily population is 429.
Martin reports that young people committed to youth development centers are adjudicated delinquent for offenses committed before their 16 birthdays, are assigned to the department by the courts and assigned to centers for treatment. She says the minimum stay is six months, but the average length of stay in 2010 was 392 days.
"If a juvenile is adjudicated or found responsible for an offense, he or she can remain in the juvenile justice system until age 18. In some cases, juveniles may stay up to the age of 21, depending on the offense," Martin said.
With adoption of the Juvenile Justice Reform Act of 1998, commitment to a youth development center is reserved for serious and/or violent offenders in addition to chronic offenders, Martin said.
Known as Samarkand Manor, the youth facility has been operated in rural Eagle Springs since the earlier part of the 20th century. Operations have changed through the years, and more recently - until a change made in the past year - the facility served teen girls. It now serves boys.
Contact Florence Gilkeson by e-mail at email@example.com.
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