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Juvenile Home to Close Amid Allegations of Staff Abuses

September 29, 2002|From Associated Press

MORGANTOWN, Pa. — A juvenile detention center set up under an ambitious plan to treat the state's worst youth offenders will close because of abuse allegations against staffers, officials said.

The state Department of Public Welfare on Friday said it had determined that between July 2001 and April of this year there were 14 sexual assaults--most committed by employees--on inmates at New Morgan Academy.

A provisional six-month license was issued to the private facility in February as the department investigated the allegations. It decided not to renew the license, which expires Wednesday, department spokesman Jason Pagni said.

It was not clear whether any employees will face criminal charges.

New Morgan Academy was established in 2000 with the aim of "treating troubled youth with dignity and respect."

But the facility's operator, Cornell Companies Inc., admitted that it failed in its ambition of combining juvenile justice with mental health care.

"We have had a series of people who not only failed to abide by [company] policy but failed to abide by state law and common decency," said company spokesman Paul Doucette.

Doucette said that in the most recent case of abuse, four employees roughed up a 15-year-old boy to teach him a lesson. The four were suspended and will be fired, he said.

The facility will close next month after the company decides with the state and county where to transfer the inmates.

Cornell is the nation's third-largest private correctional firm, with about 75 facilities around the nation and 30 in Pennsylvania.

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