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Accusations fly over problems at Richmond Juvenile Jail

RICHMOND, Va (WTVR)  –  Richmond City Councilman Charles Samuels said Tuesday that repeated delays in fixing problems at the city’s juvenile detention facility shows the mayor doesn’t have control of the city.

State juvenile justice inspectors have twice, in three years, put the 60-bed facility on probation for poorly trained staff and problems with locks, cameras and other safety and security issues. The NAACP has pushed for investigations and fixes.

Samuels, among others on council, has had enough with promises. He points out that Mayor Dwight Jones’ administration assured council the problems were being addressed, only to have state inspectors say otherwise.

He wants all the problems fixed now, not by April when it will be re-inspected by the state.

Samuels also said these lingering problems are similar to missteps by the administration that led to costly delays in planning for the new city jail, despite warnings by city council.

But, Richmond Deputy Chief Administrative Officer Dr. Carolyn Graham, the official the mayor has tasked with getting the juvenile facility turned around, says Samuels is grandstanding after just one visit to the facility. She said most of the problems have been addressed and they are working at speed to take care of the rest.

Samuels said one of the female inmates has been bitten by bedbugs. Graham said they’ll look into it, but said there have been no reported bedbug bites and if Samuels is wrong, the administration will have a problem with that.

Samuels said he’ll apologize if he’s wrong about the bedbugs.

Two years ago, Richmond hired a nationally known troubleshooter to come in and turn the troubled detention facility around. But Dianne Gadow was  fired last month, right after state inspectors put the facility back on probation. Some insiders say she wasn’t given a free hand to whip the facility into shape. Gadow was about halfway through a three- to five-year plan to change the way the city deals with juvenile offenders, with less emphasis on incarceration.

The detention center is only partially occupied.

Samuels wants to know why the problems can’t be fixed immediately.

Asked if he was running for mayor, Samuels flatly said no.

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