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Work underway to reopen shuttered Juvenile Detention Center

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RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) - Richmond's Juvenile Detention Center is still a work in progress these days after Mayor Jones shuttered the facility six months ago because of security concerns.

The facility is designed to house young offenders who've committed minor and violent crimes.

Rufus Fleming, Senior Deputy Director of Richmond's Justice Services says crews are working hard to get the facility ready to reopen.

"You're going to see not only a good facility, you're going to see the best facility. Not only in the State. But you're going to see the best facility in the nation," Fleming said.

And on Friday, CBS 6 News' Sandra Jones and her photographer were the only TV crew allowed inside to see the improvements.

In the center's control room, Fleming says monitors are connected to new security cameras throughout the building as a safeguard.

Fleming said staff members will be using new computers to operate the intercom systems and open the cell door locks instead of the old control panels. But Fleming admitted there have been some glitches within the system.

"We're talking about technology and there stands a possibility it could happen," he said. "But if we were to do our systems checks on a constant basis, regular basis. We'll know in advance if there are any problems."

Security problems forced Mayor Jones to shutdown the facility six months ago. They included allegations of criminal misconduct, charges of mismanagement and falsifying of training records. 

Seventy-two people were impacted as a result of the closure.

"We're reviewing the types of individuals that we're going to hire," Fleming said. "It's going to be a very strict and stringent application process. We would like to see one particular person dedicated to training, keeping track of records."

Virginia's NAACP Executive Director King Salim Khalfani blew the whistle on the center after some of employees complained about the conditions.

"They've been transparent," Khalfani said. "They've been honest and they've admitted all of the problems that existed." 

Still, he believes the mayor and his administration could have fixed the problems without closing the facility. But now, he believes the city is serious about correcting the problems.

"It's going to be a completely different ideology...," Khalfani said. "We're in concurrence with that because they said their motto is they want the young people to be better when they leave then where they come in. So, we can work with that."

The 72 former employees have been assigned to other city departments. Khalfani said some of them hope to return to the center, but says not all of those employees may return.

The 40 plus juveniles transferred to other facilities around the state are expected to return to Richmond's center when it reopens in July 2013.