Juveniles moved from Salem facility - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

Juveniles moved from Salem facility

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The final juveniles have moved out of the Salem Harriet B. Jones Treatment Center, according to a news release from the West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety.

This transfer began with the decision of visiting Mercer County Circuit Judge Omar Aboulhosn, who ruled in July that all juvenile sex offenders must move out of the facility before Sept. 30.

His decision came after witness testimony regarding concerns of the lack of compliance with a previous court order and severe short-staffing.

In his verbal order, Aboulhosn said he was "stunned" to find out juveniles with mental issues, who were housed in the wellness center, were currently being housed with adult sex offenders. Aboulhosn noted those adult sex offenders were juveniles when they committed the offense.

According to the West Virginia Division of Juvenile Services, the maximum-security, state-operated facility housed 38 beds for male sex offenders and it is located on the grounds of the West Virginia Industrial Home for Youth.

Earlier this year, the Division of Juvenile Services announced its intention to close the Industrial Home as a juvenile facility and to relocate more than 300 adults there.

The change was part of a larger plan proposed by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and the West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety to reorganize facilities under the Division for Juveniles Services and the Division of Corrections.

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.

In the court's November order — which is at issue in the Harriet B. Jones treatment facility matter — parties in the Industrial Home lawsuit agreed to policy changes, such as those controlling solitary confinement, appropriate garb and weekly phone calls.

The order also included an agreement about strip searches, requiring that strip searches be performed only if there is a reasonable suspicion that residents are in possession of contraband, instead of every time they leave the building.

The news release from the West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety said this transfer set the stage for easing adult inmate crowding by allowing the conversion of the former Industrial Home into the Salem Correctional Center.

The news release states approximately 400 beds for adult offenders will be available at the facility.