Cardin wants to move troubled Laurel youth facility
Senator proposes relocation to the District, could add proposal to stalled defense bill
U.S. Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin has proposed moving a troubled youth detention facility in Laurel to Washington, D.C., where its overseeing agency is based.
Cardin (D) of Pikesville is considering submitting an amendment to the proposed National Defense Authorization Act, S. 3454, that would relocate the New Beginnings Youth Development Center from Laurel to the current location of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in the District, Cardin spokeswoman Sue Walitsky said Friday.
Walter Reed is scheduled to close next year, and 62 acres of the 113-acre campus would come into District control for possible development.
The $46 million Laurel facility, which houses about 60 District juvenile offenders ages 14 to 21, opened in May 2009 and is run by the D.C. Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services. There have been several inmate escapes and revolts, leading some residents and officials to question the quality of supervision and ask that the center be moved closer to the District.
"For quite some time, Senator Cardin has made it clear that this facility should be in the District," Walitsky. "The juveniles are the District's responsibility, and they should be closer to their families."
Six inmates escaped just two months after the facility opened last year, and some staff members were injured last June while attempting to control about 12 inmates who had climbed onto the roof of a building at the facility.
DYRS spokesman Reggie Sanders declined to comment on Cardin's proposal Friday. He did say the facility is running "very well" and that officials have kept an ongoing dialogue with Laurel residents and law enforcement to ensure public safety.
Cardin has yet to submit his amendment for consideration, Walitsky said, and the defense bill is currently stalled after receiving only 57 of the 60 votes required to proceed in a Senate vote Thursday. Legislators have clashed most notably over the bill's proposed repeal of the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy which bans the openly gay from serving.
Walitsky said Cardin is unsure whether he will submit the amendment before Congress adjourns later this month, but that he will continue to call for the facility's relocation to a District facility, even if it is not Walter Reed.
Tim Reyburn, president of the Russett Community Association near Laurel, said residents would likely support the relocation of New Beginnings, but hope that the land be used for a park or other public space, and not for private development.
"It would make more sense to have [New Beginnings] in D.C.," Reyburn said. "Provided they build a regional park, it sounds like a good deal."