Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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September 24, 2013

16 juvenile sex offenders coming to Mercer center

PRINCETON — Staff at a local juvenile detention center are preparing for the arrival of 16 juvenile sex offenders expected in Mercer County by the end of September.

State corrections officials are planning to move juvenile offenders from the Harriet B Jones Treatment Center in Harrison County to the Sam Perdue Juvenile Center in Mercer County, said state Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety spokesman Lawrence Messina. Changes are being made at the Mercer County center to accommodate the new juveniles.

In July, Circuit Court Judge Omar Aboulhosn of Mercer County, who had been assigned to the case, ordered the state to relocate the Harriet B Jones Treatment Center or its residents by Sept. 30. He had earlier condemned conditions at the former Industrial Home for Youth in Salem, where the center is located, according to the Associated Press.

“The staff has been undergoing extensive training for their treatment,” Messina said. “Security upgrades are being made to accommodate this class of offender. They are definitely making physical changes to that building given the new role it will be playing.”

The changes are scheduled to be completed before Sept. 30, he said.

“We are committed to meeting the date set by the judge, and we are committed to making changes so there will be vocational programming and recreational opportunities for these residents,” Messina said.

State officials have closed the high-security Industrial Home for Youth and turned it into a minimum-to-medium security men’s prison. Adult inmates will be moved to the facility after the juveniles leave.

Messina said Monday he did not know if more juvenile sex offenders will be transferred to the center soon. State officials envision the Sam Perdue Center becoming the facility for juveniles with those kind of offenses. The top priority for the staff is to treat the juveniles for their problems.

“We are not treating them as adults. We are treating them as juveniles able to be rehabilitated,” he said.

— Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com

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