Failed Hickey bidder questions board State panel passed over Hindman's low bid, chose Colorado firm.


A Baltimore businessman who was a prime advocate of putting Maryland's largest facility for juvenile offenders into private hands is now wondering why his new firm failed to win a contract to do the job.

W. James Hindman, who founded Youth Services International in the hopes that he would be selected to run the Charles H. Hickey Jr. School, yesterday turned a routine meeting of the state Board of Public Works into a debate over what kinds of treatment are best suited for delinquents.

Hindman, founder and former president of Jiffy Lube Inc., lost out in a bidding process that pitted his new group against five other companies, although YSI's bid was about $10 million less than that of winning vendor Rebound of Colorado.

Officials said they decided to accept Rebound's three-year, $50 million bid because the firm has a good record with its Colorado facility and its programs for dealing with tough juvenile offenders match the goals of the Department of Juvenile Services.

Department of Juvenile Services Secretary Nancy Grasmick said yesterday the 200-plus youths at Hickey -- the state's toughest juvenile cases -- have not been rehabilitated properly under traditional state care. She said Rebound's programs -- which stress social and educational skills over treatment through drugs and psychiatry -- should lower Hickey's current 50 percent recidivism rate.

"[Rebound's] bid is not the low bid," Grasmick said, "but it is certainly a reasonable bid because now no one's being rehabilitated." Even though the Rebound bid is high, said Grasmick, it's less than the state now spends annually to run the school.

Hindman, who had shown interest in running Hickey long before state legislators backed the plan, said his bid was based upon a concept of treating the youths through a mix of military-style camps and programs offered at Glen Mills, a Pennsylvania private juvenile detention facility that relies heavily on peer pressure and athletic activities for its residents, many of whom are from street gangs.

Hindman said a number of legislators and community leaders favored the proposed YSI philosophy and he predicted the state is making "a huge mistake" going with Rebound.

Noting his long friendship with Gov. William Donald Schaefer, one of three board members, Hindman wondered aloud if the close relationship between the two had jeopardized his standing in the bid process.

Schaefer told Hindman he would have been under intense press scrutiny had YSI won the bid.

The Hickey School, which includes a detention facility, has been the state's only training school for juvenile offenders since the Montrose School closed in 1988. Its problems in recent years have included a spate of escapes, overcrowding and attacks on employees.

Earlier this year, the General Assembly, horrified by a report on conditions at Hickey, agreed to let a private vendor try its hand at running the facility. The three-year, $50 million request for bids attracted almost 30 inquiries, but only six companies ended up bidding on June 18.

Proposals were judged by two committees, working separately to evaluate programming and financing. Programming, such as education and vocational training, made up 60 percent of a firm's ultimate score.

Grasmick said the guidelines for the proposals were left deliberately vague, in hopes that potential vendors would be inspired to offer creative solutions.

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