Judge orders youth under 14 to relocate from Salem center - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

Judge orders youth under 14 to relocate from Salem center

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Youths under 14 will be relocated from the Industrial Home for Youth in Salem to a more "age appropriate facility," a Mercer County judge recently ordered in a lawsuit alleging "repressive policies" at the institution.

Mountain State Justice, which represents two residents of the facility, originally filed the emergency petition for writ of habeas corpus and writ of mandamus in the state Supreme Court against Dale Humphreys, director of the Division of Juvenile Services and David Jones, the superintendent of the West Virginia Industrial Home for Youth.

The case later was transferred to Kanawha County Circuit Court for factual development, and Mercer County Circuit Court Judge Omar Aboulhosn was appointed to oversee the case.

The petition alleged several incidents of what petitioners called "repressive policies" including confining the petitioners to their cells for long periods of time, using solitary confinement as punishment, leaving bathroom and shower breaks up to staff's discretion, requiring residents to wear prison uniforms, limiting contact with families and limiting educational and physical exercise opportunities.

The most recent order extended to those under 14 sentenced to the facility, saying they will be taken to another facility.

 "It is also of great concern to the court, that the un-rebutted evidence taken during the evidentiary hearing that the welfare of residents aged 14 and younger is in peril, and that these younger residents should not housed within the same facility as the older residents," Judge Omar Aboulhosn's order states.

In addition, Aboulhosn's order appointed West Virginia Supreme Court juvenile justice monitor Cindy Largent-Hill to ensure compliance in the Nov. 27 order that outlined agreed changes at the facility.

In that order, parties continued negotiations ranging from policies of solitary confinement and isolation to appropriate garb and whether calls home should be monitored.

An order for those agreements was entered Sept. 17. The Nov. 27 order amended it.

The original order focused on issues regarding youth in isolation in various facilities, primarily at the industrial home.

There are exceptions, however, such as out-of-control residents or violent offenses.

Officials also worked to change policies to no longer use isolation.

Residents also will have an opportunity for hearings and appeals.

Bathroom access was another area in the agreed changes. The order sought to address immediate access to the bathroom as requested.

Parties additionally reached an agreement about strip searches. Residents now will only be strip searched if there is reasonable suspicion that they are in possession of contraband instead of every time they leave the building.

The next hearing in the case is set for Jan. 11.