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Posted at 5:22 PM ET, 12/ 9/2010

Cardin proposes moving New Beginnings facility to Walter Reed campus

By Ben Pershing and Henri Cauvin

Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin (D) sent a legislative message to District officials this week, proposing to move the New Beginnings youth detention center from Laurel to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center campus.

Cardin quietly offered an amendment to the defense authorization bill, which sets the Pentagon budget for the next year, requiring the D.C. government to plan for "the complete transfer" of the New Beginnings facility to Walter Reed. The defense bill stalled in the Senate on Thursday afternoon, failing to get the 60 votes necessary to proceed because of a separate fight over the military's "don't ask don't tell" policy. But Cardin still wanted to signal that this issue is a priority for him.

"I don't know if we're going to have a defense bill or not, and I think the likelihood that this amendment will be considered is not very great," Cardin said in a brief interview Thursday. "But I just want people to understand that this is a continued concern that we have to resolve."

New Beginnings opened in May 2009 in Anne Arundel County, on land that for decades has housed social service institutions of the District, among them the Oak Hill Youth Center. New Beginnings replaced Oak Hill, which was notorious for crowding and violence and had become an emblem for all that was wrong with the District's juvenile justice system. Built at a cost of $46 million, New Beginnings was set up to house up to 60 youths, far fewer than had been held at Oak Hill, and it marked a shift toward a more rehabilitative approach toward young offenders.

Soon after New Beginnings opened, two escapes occurred, leading the District to strengthen security at the facility, which is in Laurel, and then earlier this year, a disturbance among some of the youths prompted a massive response by law enforcement agencies from the county, the state and the District. No major incidents have been reported since then, but the facility has been well over capacity in recent weeks, with more youths detained there than at any time since it opened. And that has led to increased tension inside the facility, according to juvenile justice advocates.

Walter Reed, meanwhile, is slated for closure next year, and D.C. officials are working on ambitious plans to develop the 62 acres of the campus that will come under the District's control. The city is considering a mix of residential and retail shops, plus a health clinic and two charter schools. The federal government will also control a portion of the Walter Reed land, and could put federal offices there.

Would all of those new elements mix well with a juvenile detention facility? Cardin made clear that he was tired of hearing from D.C. officials that there was no suitable location available for New Beginnings in the District.

"A juvenile detention center is an important responsibility of local government," Cardin said. "It should be a high priority. It shouldn't be a stepchild, and the district of Columbia should give it the priority it deserves."

But Cardin also said he was "absolutely not" wedded to the idea that Walter Reed was the best or only option for the facility. As for New Beginnings' current location, Cardin said he feels "very strongly that this land needs to be put to better use," calling it important for both environmental and national security reasons (its neighbor is the National Security Agency).

D.C. Council Member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), whose Human Services Committee oversees the city's juvenile justice system, chuckled when told of Cardin's proposed amendment.

"New Beginnings just got built and it's state of the art," Wells said. "It sounds like politics. It doesn't sound practical. That said, I like Ben Cardin."

By Ben Pershing and Henri Cauvin  | December 9, 2010; 5:22 PM ET
Categories:  Ben Pershing, Crime and Public Safety  
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Wells would chuckled cause he dont really want the kiddie jail within the city limits since they tend to escaped...heck put the kiddie jail in Ward 6 near where Wells live since his department is the overseers

Posted by: JeroRobson1 | December 9, 2010 7:11 PM | Report abuse

Not only should D.C. house its juvenile offenders within D.C., it also needs to build a proper "state" prison to house its adult prisoners, rather than farming them out to federal and contract facilities outside D.C.

You can't expect respect from Congress when it comes to demanding our full citizenship rights, including voting representation, when we continue to insist on dumping our garbage on other jurisdictions.

We need to take care of our own.

Posted by: Kathy8 | December 9, 2010 8:23 PM | Report abuse

DC, take your criminals back. PG produces enough on its own.

Posted by: gbooksdc | December 9, 2010 9:03 PM | Report abuse

Howzabout on the St. Elizabeth(')s grounds? The law enforcement folks in the US Department of Homeland Security could help keep escaped thugs under control, as part of ongoing readiness training and practice. Could be a win-win situation.

Posted by: nan_lynn | December 10, 2010 1:14 AM | Report abuse

Apparently the only way to settle this little intra-Democrat squabble is to see whose wife can fit the most cash in her underwear.

Posted by: gitarre | December 10, 2010 6:08 AM | Report abuse

I agree with Cardin- DC should clean up it's own trash. Maryland should not have to pay one nickle for DC offenders.

Posted by: 10bestfan | December 10, 2010 9:04 AM | Report abuse

good. move the thugs home. give them work release programs so they can continue their carrers where they started.

Posted by: pofinpa | December 10, 2010 9:38 AM | Report abuse

I think it's a great idea to consider all the possible uses of walter reed now because we won't have an opportunity like this ever again. Having juvenile offenders housed close to home enables things like work release and other programs that can ensure a sucessful return to society.

Posted by: MarilynManson | December 10, 2010 10:48 AM | Report abuse

Doesn't New Beginnings sit on Federal Land that just happens to be in Maryland?

Posted by: concernedaboutdc | December 10, 2010 12:18 PM | Report abuse

Kathy8--The only reason DC farms out its adult offenders to other states is because the feds (i.e. Congress) shut down Lorton and FORCED DC to send its inmates all over the country. DC's inmates are a big cash windfall to the prison industry and the rural areas where certain members of Congress sent them to be housed. It was all about MONEY. Developers wanted the land in Lorton and Congressmen from rural districts wanted prisons built in their districts to bring jobs. DC's inmates are worth more in WV, PA, FL and NC than they are in DC.

Posted by: PepperDr | December 10, 2010 12:34 PM | Report abuse

I tend to agree. DC should house its prisoners in DC. Lorton was in VA. "New Beginnings" =\ is in MD. As one poster noted, this will allow for work release and other programs, as well as family visits.

Posted by: pejochum | December 10, 2010 12:55 PM | Report abuse

to Jerorobson1: I agree with many of those posting that this facility should be in DC. DC should also have its own prison within the city limits. However, PLEASE NOT IN WARD 6. I live in Ward 6 and we already have a disproportionate number of social service facilities on our ward compared to other wards. I vote for Ward 3. Let the city's wealthiest and most comfortable residents get a feel for what the rest of us put up with on a daily basis.

Posted by: UrbanDweller | December 10, 2010 1:09 PM | Report abuse

Another illustration of why the District should be retroceded to Maryland. The District is not capable of functioning as a state.

Posted by: pundito | December 10, 2010 1:12 PM | Report abuse

Give DC to Virginia...they know ho=w to handle the yoof....

Posted by: 10bestfan | December 10, 2010 2:08 PM | Report abuse

Wells is an idiot. Let the Feds deal with it. They seem to want to control the District anyway.

Posted by: jckdoors | December 10, 2010 4:10 PM | Report abuse

Maybe people from Maryland should work in Maryland.

Posted by: nmoses | December 10, 2010 4:50 PM | Report abuse

Ahhh it’s real easy to type these shoot from the emotional hip comments such as “You can't expect respect from Congress when it comes to demanding our full citizenship rights, including voting representation, when we continue to insist on dumping our garbage on other jurisdictions.”
Comments like this show the lack of understanding about of the D.C. budget. DC functions as City, State and County and let’s add that we don’t have much taxable land. Tax-exempt property including Churches, Schools (i.e. Georgetown U. George Washington, Catholic, Howard) St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, Boiling Air Force Base, the city’s Blue Plains Wastewater Treatment Plant, D.C. Village and parkland; Federal Government properties and on and on and on. So we have to rely on income tax from residents, restaurants, tourisms, and yeah we get a some penny’s for the feds but it isn’t enough.
To those who feel that we aren’t “capable”…then I take it then you would be in full support of a commuter tax or even a toll road to pay for the drainage that is put on this city. We have a higher sales tax at 6% and everyone who make over 40K pays the same taxes which is 8.5%.

Drpep is correct and it was the 1997 Revitalization Act for the District, which transferred the expenses of operating prisons, the pension system and other costly programs to the federal government.

Posted by: thelildiva4u | December 10, 2010 4:55 PM | Report abuse


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Posted by: shoestrade30 | December 10, 2010 8:10 PM | Report abuse

I think the transfer wouuld be a good idea, but I had hoped that Walter Reed would be a place all the embassies could be housed so we could get the properties they are on back on the tax rolls. I assume Cardin is planning on MD getting the 400 plus acres in Laurel, which DC really could use for brining special ed kids who are in residential treatment facilities closer to home. Or as a camp or something, it is a beautiful piece of property that MD wants to put trak housing on.

Posted by: DeniseW | December 16, 2010 2:18 PM | Report abuse

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