Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Felling Oak Hill

Yesterday's Sun had an interesting piece on the expansion of the Oak Hill Juvenile Detention Center in Laurel. The facility, nominally a branch of the Washington, DC public school system exists in a precarious position, both physically and philosophically.

Its history goes back to 1929, when the federal government granted the 888 acre tract, which is located between Fort Meade and the National Security Agency (NSA), to Washington, DC. The juvenile detention facility, which houses up to 188 incarcerated middle and high school youth, was built in 1967.

The current expansion flies in the face of Senator Cardin's persistent efforts to shut the facility down, and his arguments that the center should be moved back to the District because, the location is too remote and prevents close interaction between the youths and their families.

District officials have argued that because the center houses youth whose stay is often months at a time, the rural facility gives them the opportunity to spend time outdoors. The City's other juvenile detention center, in northeast DC, has no outdoor recreation space. In the past, the City has also expressed that it would be willing to part with much of the land beyond what is immediately being used, about 40-60 acres.

With BRAC and large-scale development planned for the area, expect this issue to heat up even more over the coming years.

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