A spirit of cooperation in western Anne Arundel County has helped clear the way for the District of Columbia to open a program for nonviolent juveniles and young adults next week, district officials announced yesterday.
Starting Tuesday, 25 juveniles will go through a monthlong, quasi-military boot camp at Forest Haven, the district's defunct mental institution complex off Route 198 in Laurel. The camp will be the starting point for the D.C. Superior Court's Urban Services Program, a yearlong pilot to help about 150 youthful offenders on probation.
The young men and women, ages 14 to 26, will live in Jones Hall, a renovated two-story brick building at River Road and Center Avenue. The district will run eight camps each year, monitored by about 18 probation officers and three U.S. marshals.
"We wanted to get the kids out of the city for the first 30 days, to separate them from the community which got them in trouble," said Chief Judge Eugene N. Hamilton of the D.C. Superior Court. "This was the very place to do this."
The youths will wake up at 6 a.m., dress in Army fatigues, split into platoons, drill for several hours and be in bed by 9 p.m. They will be tutored, counseled and sent on overnight wilderness trips to build character.
The second and third phases of the $1.4 million, federally funded program will take place in the district at Hamilton Junior High School. There the juveniles will attend school while the young adults get job training.
Yesterday, Anne Arundel residents, D.C. Superior Court judges and employees gathered at Jones Hall for a catered ribbon-cutting ceremony.
"I'm really impressed," said William O'Reilly, an officer in the Maryland City Civic Association. "All in all, it's a great program. I like to see it become a reality."
That was not the sentiment last October, when four inmates from Oak Hill, the district's maximum-security youth jail, escaped while attending an educational program at a Forest Haven cottage. One had been convicted of wounding six people at the Benning Park Pool in the district in June 1993. Another had been accused of killing two people in September 1993. All were recaptured.
Residents, including Mr. O'Reilly, vowed to shut down Forest Haven. Two years ago, they worked with congressional leaders to close Cedar Knoll, a medium-security D.C. detention center near Forest Haven from which 177 inmates escaped or failed to return from weekend passes from 1990 through 1992.
The new program has residents' support because D.C. court officials have been working with civic groups, said Mr. O'Reilly. They have provided the civic association with office and pager numbers in case of emergencies and have given the Maryland City Fire Station a siren that would warn residents of an escape.
Councilman Bert L. Rice, who represents western Anne Arundel County, said the D.C. court officials seem more organized than the Department of Human Services who run Oak Hill.
"This seems a much tighter control," said Mr. Rice. "I hope they're successful."