D.C. Plans New Youth Facility at Oak Hill

By William Wan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 2, 2007

D.C. officials plan to move forward with building a new youth detention center on the site of the Oak Hill Youth Center in Fort Meade, despite opposition from Anne Arundel County officials.

Representatives from the office of D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) told county and state officials of their plans at a meeting Monday in Oak Hill. County and state officials said the decision came as a surprise because they had been pushing to acquire the vast property on which the dilapidated center sits for a regional park and other uses.

District officials said their decision shouldn't have surprised anyone because plans for a new center had been in the works since at least 2005.

The 880-acre property is largely unoccupied. One of the only buildings on the land is the Oak Hill Youth Center, which houses District youths convicted of crimes. In recent years, the 220-bed center has been plagued with escapes, crowding and security problems and criticized for housing youths in poor conditions.

The new facility would house about 60 youths. D.C. officials hope to finish construction by next year. City officials say completing the new facility quickly is crucial because the D.C. Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services is under court monitor and is required by consent decree to shutdown Oak Hill by 2009.

Maryland officials have argued that D.C. should build its replacement facility somewhere in the District, closer to the homes and families of the youths detained.

Maryland Sens. Benjamin L. Cardin (D) and Barbara A. Mikulski (D) recently introduced a bill to force the current detention center to be moved to Washington. The bill also calls for the land to be split between the National Security Agency, which abuts the property, and Anne Arundel.

The land is owned by the federal government and was made available decades ago in a land grant to the District.

Fenty did not attend the meeting Monday because of two fires in the city, but staff members met with Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.), Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold (R) and a representative from Cardin's office.

Leopold and other Maryland officials said they would continue pushing for some of the land, noting that the facility would take up 25 of the site's 880 acres.

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