Mayor closes juvenile justice center

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The Richmond Juvenile Detention Center, which has been plagued by allegations of fraud and criminal activity, was closed for business Thursday.  Mayor Dwight Jones made the decision after new accusations came to light, while the facility has been on state-mandated probation.

This is a choice the mayor said he didn't take lightly. It's likely if the city didn't voluntarily shut down the center, the state would have ultimately yanked its certification.

It is the worst case scenario. Almost fifty kids and more than seventy employees now need a new place to go.  The juvenile justice center is closing amid startling allegations, which are new claims since our last story.

"There's been a continuing saga of issues and what we need to do is start all over again," City Chief Administrative Officer Byron Marshall explained.

Sources told NBC12 the mayor's tipping points were new criminal activity and violations of policies by staff and management.  They are described as examples of a culture of unethical behavior.

"While we have been able to address the bricks and mortar issues, there are some management and some operational issues and some work culture issues we have not been able to fix," Marshall said.

The kids began moving out Thursday. They'll be transferred to other facilities in nearby jurisdictions.

Employees will be able to apply for vacant positions in the city.  Some will get severance packages.  Those, plus other costs, add to a total estimated price tag of almost one million dollars.  Some, including Councilman Charles Samuels, said that total could have been avoided.

"We owed them a better standard of care than this," he maintained.

The commonwealth's attorney continues to investigate forgery charges at the facility. For now, the mayor said it will close for at least a year.

The rest of the kids should be moved out by close of business Friday.  That's also when Richmond is expected to hand over its license.

Friday morning, lawyers will meet with the city attorney and the director of justice services to discuss the logistics of the closing.

Viewers may remember this all started last fall with abuse claims from the NAACP.

Copyright 2012 WWBT NBC12. All rights reserved.