Juvenile detention center closure surprises parents

Posted at 6:27 PM, Apr 27, 2012
and last updated 2012-04-27 21:57:46-04

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) - A day after Mayor Dwight Jones announced Richmond would immediately close its juvenile detention center, officials explained the decision to frustrated parents and others surprised by the news.

The mayor told reporters Friday that his administration has been investigating unsafe conditions at the facility, lack of staff training and forged documents for months. [MORE: Troubled juvenile detention center shuts down immediately]

However, Jones said new allegations of criminal misconduct involving an employee prompted his call to shutter the facility.

"Perhaps that had something to do with it," said Jones. "At that point, I had enough... We've been focused on trying to keep our young people safe and provide a good environment for them."

However, the announcement did not sit well NAACP Executive Director Salim Khalfani.

The latest developments comes eight months after Khalfani raised the red flag over what he called deplorable conditions inside the Richmond Juvenile Detention Center.

"They've got a cesspool of corruption in there and they're going down," said  Khalfani. "It didn't have to come to this, but the city was reticent. They were arrogant and they didn't care about residents, juveniles or the staff ..." [RELATED: Mom says son was told to ‘drink own spit’ at Richmond Juvenile Detention Center]

The decision to close the center also came as a complete surprise to people with family members detained there.

"I just want to find my son," Louise Shelton told CBS 6 News' Sandra Jones. "Let somebody call me and let me know where my son is."

Shelton said she is worried about her 17-year-old son since she has not been able to reach anyone at the center.

"He calls me four times during the week," said Shelton. "And it just so happen yesterday, I kept looking at my phone and [thought] he's not calling me."

However, Mayor Jones said all families had been contacted about the move.

Richmond's Chief Administrative Officer Byron Marshall said part of confusion came because of the transportation process.

"Once we get them on the bus to be transported, then we notify the parents, since it would be a security issue to do so beforehand," said Marshall.

Forty-nine juvenile offenders were relocated to other facilities within an hour of the city's announcement.

Jones said that an agreement has been reached with Chesterfield County to house the detainees.

Additionally, the 72 detention center employees affected by the center's closure could get other jobs within city government. Some could get severance packages and accrued vacation, which could cost the city nearly $1 million.

"Now, I have to go out here and look for another job and it's mind boggling how they can just do this," said one worker.

Additionally, the mayor said he accepted the resignation of the center's director, Charles Kehoe.  David Hicks, who works in the Mayor's administration, will take over as interim director.

Stay with CBS 6 News and for complete coverage of the closure of the juvenile detention center.