The state Department of Juvenile Services announced yesterday that it will close the Thomas O'Farrell Youth Center, a privately run 43-bed facility for delinquent boys in Carroll County.
Department officials said the center, unlocked but staff-secure, treated about 80 boys per year at an annual cost of more than $3.7 million to the state. Youth advocates have called the center outdated, both in its physical structure and its programming.
When the center closes Nov. 30, about 10 boys will be moved to other facilities, and the rest will be released to community programs, said Tammy Brown, a spokeswoman for Juvenile Services.
The department will use about $600,000 of O'Farrell's annual budget to pay for 100 new slots of a community-based therapy program for boys in the Baltimore area.
Thomas O'Farrell's closure comes as another private company is attempting to open a residential program for juvenile delinquents, also in Carroll County. Rite of Passage, based in Nevada, has applied for a license to operate Bowling Brook Preparatory School, which held about 170 boys when it was closed weeks after a youth died there in 2007.
Last week, a new law went into effect requiring that new residential facilities for children show a need for their services before they are allowed to open. Rite of Passage is on its third revision for an application to run Bowling Brook. One juvenile justice advocate saw the timing of these events as "very interesting ... ironic."
"If the department is genuinely moving toward community services, they need to do it whole-cloth," said Angela Conyers Johnese of Advocates for Children and Youth, "not close one facility and at the same time try to open another one."
Brown said O'Farrell's closure has "nothing at all" to do with Rite of Passage.
"We haven't even seen their proposal," she said. "For us to base any decisions on what they might or might not do would be bad practice."