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Pa. cracks down on juvenile crime

January 15, 1998

Pa. cracks down on juvenile crime

By RICHARD F. BELISLE

Staff Writer, Waynesboro

SOUTH MOUNTAIN, Pa. - The first five juvenile offenders walked through the doors of Pennsylvania's new maximum security South Mountain Secure Treatment Center Tuesday to begin their sentences.

The $5 million center, built on the grounds of the South Mountain Restoration Center, eventually will house 50 juveniles, said Corby Myers, regional director for the center.

Myers works for the Abraxas Foundation, Inc., a private group that will run the South Mountain center and a 64-bed maximum security female treatment center that will open in August in the northeast part of the state.

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The centers are being built by the state Department of Public Welfare, which has contracted for administrative services with Abraxas, said Stephanie Forrest, department spokeswoman.

The department is building four such secure centers across the state in answer to a special legislative session on juvenile crime called by Gov. Tom Ridge in 1995.

The treatment centers will house youngsters who are in the juvenile justice system and who have not been tried as adults.

Forrest said the Department of Public Welfare has 13 facilities across the state - including the two that opened this week - capable of housing up to 861 juveniles who have gone through the juvenile justice system in minimum, medium and maximum security. The system is nearly full, she said.

The department last year opened a 16-bed facility for emotionally disturbed juvenile offenders near Allentown, Pa.

Those in Pennsylvania between the ages 15 and 21 who have been tried and convicted as adults will be housed in a 500-bed juvenile prison being built by the State Department of Corrections in Indiana Pa., officials said.

The Abraxas Foundation also operates a boot camp for 120 juveniles on the grounds of the South Mountain Restoration Center. The state-run center is a nursing home for elderly, mentally handicapped patients.

The new juvenile facility is ringed by a 14-foot-high razor wire fence. It has individual cells and cameras that monitor inmate movements. The center has a staff of 77, plus 10 teachers, Myers said.

"It's designed to protect the staff and the community. This is the last chance for these kids to turn their lives around," Forrest said.

"Pennsylvania needs maximum-security facilities to protect its citizens from the most serious and violent juvenile offenders. Bricks and barbed wire are evidence that violent juveniles will now face real-world consequences for their actions," Ridge said.

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