Virginia Juvenile Justice Director Gerald O. Glenn announced his resignation today after months of battling with his own advisory board over charges of misconduct at a crowded correctional center and a policy that allowed officers to hit and kick dangerous youths.
Glenn, 46, declined to offer a reason for his departure today, saying only, "Maybe it's just time to go back to doing something else." He plans to turn his attention to the church in suburban Richmond he founded and still runs, he said. The resignation is effective Dec. 1.
Public Safety Secretary Gary K. Aronhalt said Glenn has told administration officials that the widely reported controversies with the board had become too much of a distraction to allow him to function effectively in his job. Gov. James S. Gilmore III (R) praised Glenn in a statement today, and Aronhalt said, "I think he did a fantastic job."
Youth advocates and some members of the Board of Juvenile Justice cheered Glenn's departure. Relations with the board had grown increasingly acrimonious, particularly after Glenn, who is African American, suggested in June that racial issues were a factor in the board's dealings with him.
Tensions began earlier this year, when it became public that Glenn had had his staff taught a series of kicks and punches to control unruly youths. Pressure on the department grew in April when a 16-year-old retarded boy from Manassas died in the department's care, prompting a criminal investigation but no charges.
But the most serious battle culminated last week when the board voted to decertify the crowded Beaumont Juvenile Correctional Center, outside Richmond. Board members reported that officers there were paying some juveniles to enforce discipline and that some female officers were trading sex for cooperation with youths in their care.
Glenn, who had clashed repeatedly with the board at previous meetings, did not attend that one. And though the vote had little practical effect on the operations of Beaumont, he tendered his resignation to Gilmore two days later.
"I wish him luck, but I think it was definitely a time for a change," said board member J.E. "Chip" Harding, a Charlottesville police lieutenant. "I was disappointed with his performance."
Other board members said Glenn was hard to work with. "He was confrontational even when we asked questions," said member Robert J. McCabe, the Norfolk sheriff. "He drew a line in the sand."
Fairfax lawyer John A. Wasowicz, another board member, said, "While I believe Reverend Glenn's intentions were always good, some of the policies implemented during his tenure were disastrous."
Some of Glenn's sharpest critics were juvenile advocates aghast at the training of juvenile officers in hits and kicks--a policy the board voted last month to reverse. In most states, juvenile officers use defensive holds and takedowns to control youths.
"For some time now, people in Virginia who care about kids have had cause to be alarmed about Virginia's Department of Juvenile Justice," said Priscilla R. Budeiri, of the Virginia Poverty Law Center. "We urge the governor to appoint a certifiable expert on children and juvenile justice as the new director to get the department back on the right track."
When Gilmore appointed Glenn to take over the department in February 1998, the minister had little experience in juvenile justice--a circumstance that often frustrated board members.
He received $91,000 a year for overseeing 1,300 youths in eight facilities. Glenn had a staff of more than 2,000 and a budget of more than $180 million, but he never gave up running his New Deliverance Evangelistic Church, where he is head pastor. Today, he called both full-time jobs.
He said the decision to leave was his alone. "I came freely and I'm leaving freely," Glenn said.
CAPTION: Gary K. Aronhalt defends his departing juvenile justice chief.