Virginia's Board of Juvenile Justice yesterday ordered its director to stop training guards to subdue violent young inmates by hitting or kicking them, but the director said the board had overstepped its authority and he would continue the program.
Gerald O. Glenn, director of the Department of Juvenile Justice, introduced the program known as "Handle With Care Plus" last year at the state's eight juvenile correctional facilities. Guards were instructed to use maneuvers with names such as "whip kick" and "shin rake" to handle youths who needed to be restrained.
The new techniques sparked a chorus of protest from children's rights and social service groups, who argued that the program may cause injuries and only fosters more violence.
Glenn has said the tactics have yet to be used on any inmate and will be employed only in life-threatening situations.
After the Board of Juvenile Justice learned of the new training, it recommended in May that Glenn suspend it pending a board review. Glenn refused, saying that it was up to him, not the board, to decide on the day-to-day procedures for running the department.
Yesterday, board members said they had concluded after their review that the training program is highly unusual and should be abolished.
"Nowhere does anybody teach offensive tactics," said Norfolk Sheriff Robert J. McCabe, a board member who was interviewed after yesterday's meeting. "You are opening yourself to liability, big time."
The board voted 5 to 1 to instruct Glenn to suspend the training and to "disapprove" of the program's use.
But Glenn remained adamant. "Nothing that happened today tells me I have to stand down immediately," he said. "As of today, my policy stands."
Officials with the attorney general's office and the Department of Public Safety yesterday backed Glenn's view that training correctional officers is his responsibility, not the board's.
The board has delegated the day-to-day operations of the Board of Juvenile Justice to the director, said David Botkins, a spokesman for the attorney general. And Gary K. Aronhalt, the secretary of public safety, "supports the director's decision to use Handle With Care Plus and the decision to implement the program," said Assistant Secretary Don C. Harrison.
Board members said they weren't sure what would happen next. "We didn't enter into this naive," said Connie Seagle, the board's chairwoman. "We figured [Glenn's] reaction would be what it was."
Mark I. Soler, president of the Youth Law Center in Washington, applauded the board's move as "a very important and wise decision. They clearly rejected a dangerous and unwise policy which has no place in a juvenile corrections program."
Soler said that he asked the national Council of Juvenile Correctional Administrators to survey other states about how they handle aggressive inmates and that 37 states responded. "Not a single state had anything close to this," Soler said.
Officials at the county juvenile detention center in Fairfax, which is not among the eight state facilities in Glenn's department, said they have never used such an approach. David Marsden, who headed the Fairfax center before retiring recently, said it is confusing and self-defeating to use violence against juvenile inmates while at the same time trying to persuade them to stay away from violent behavior.
In another development involving public safety in Virginia, the chairman of the state's Board of Corrections announced his resignation yesterday, citing differences with the Cabinet official overseeing his agency.
Andrew J. Winston, the former Richmond sheriff, said he had "difficulties" with the management style of Aronhalt, Gilmore's public safety secretary.
Like the Board of Juvenile Justice, the nine-member corrections board serves as a policy adviser, leaving day-to-day oversight of Virginia prisons to line managers.
"He never took me into his confidence," Winston said of Aronhalt.
Staff writer R.H. Melton and the Associated Press contributed to this report.