Council members question detention center plan

There were some tense moments at Richmond's City Council meeting Monday night as members questioned a plan to get the Juvenile Detention Center off state probation before it is shut down.

There was a lengthy list of questions from city council members and answers from the city's director of justice services on what's called the corrective action plan. If that strategy doesn't fix deficiencies at the detention center, the city could have to move all those kids somewhere else.

There is a lot at stake here.

"Those are children down there," explained Councilman Marty Jewell. "Not withstanding that they've done something wrong to be incarcerated, they're still our children!"

Those children are being held in a facility that does not meet state standards including deficient locks, intercom system and cameras, and inadequate training for staff.

Director of Justice Services Charles Kehoe told council Monday night there are top priorities in the plan.

"If life, health and safety concerns are not addressed, they could become the basis of de-certification," he said.

Some council members think it should have never come to this. The city knew there were issues at the detention center last fall. Only last week was the superintendent of the facility fired by the mayor.

Jewell said there's too much dragging of the feet.

"If you don't make the budget request than we can't get them fixed," he exclaimed. "You can't get them fixed!"

At one point, Kehoe went on the defensive and said council is focusing only on the negative and not the good being done at the facility. Jewell believes that spin won't fix the problems.

"There are good things that are going on down there but that's not the issue," he explained.  "There are state standards that they have to adhere to along with these good things."

Kehoe will also answer questions at the council's public safety committee meeting next month.

The state board will re-examine the center's status in April.

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