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Protesters want veto of Maple Lane School closure

Post by Jordan Schrader / The News Tribune on April 30, 2010 at 12:08 pm with 2 Comments »
April 30, 2010 12:08 pm

About 80 protesters marched up and down the steps of the Legislative Building today demanding that Gov. Chris Gregoire save Maple Lane School from shutting down.

Gregoire plans to sign the state’s operating budget next week. One of Washington’s largest state-employee unions wants her to veto the section of the bill that would start the three-year phased closure of Maple Lane, where about 200 juvenile offenders are confined in Grand Mound.

Workers, their families and Evergreen State College students chanted, “Veto” and “Save Maple Lane” today. Union officials said none of the workers were on the clock during the protest.

Supporters said no other facility has the means to handle Maple Lane’s unique population of youth with mental illnesses and addictions.

“The state has spent tens of thousands of dollars to train us at Maple Lane,” said counselor Michele Davis, of Olympia.

Legislators agreed to build new capacity at other juvenile facilities to handle Maple Lane youth.

But supporters said youth with mental illness are in danger of being victimized if they’re mixed with young offenders at Green Hill School in nearby Chehalis.

Maple Lane’s closure throws the roughly 260 jobs there into uncertainty. Many workers would move to other facilities, but the Washington Federation of State Employees says it expects 111 jobs to disappear.

Supporters say it doesn’t make sense to save $5.8 million a year by closing the school while borrowing $15.8 million to build new capacity elsewhere, as this year’s budgets call for.

A consulting firm’s 2009 study concluded that closing Maple Lane is a bad idea because the state lacks other space for juvenile offenders. Budget writers said they paid attention to the study and made sure there would be appropriate placement for all offenders.

Gregoire’s office didn’t commit to anything.  “She understands their concerns and is certainly listening  to those concerns,” said her spokeswoman, Karina Shagren, “and she has until next week to make a decision.”

Leave a comment Comments → 2
  1. areyouforreal says:

    Even the consultants, paid about $500,000 and ordered not to include Naselle as a possible cut, still pointed to a flawed result when they were forced to call for the Maple Lane closure. They said, “Overall, the facts do not support closure of either facility (Maple Lane or Green Hill). It is our conclusion that the data do not support closing either Green Hill or Maple Lane.” “Closing either institution would require significant capital expenditure. Closing either would require in excess of $35 million in new capital expenditures. ” The proviso specifically required study of Maple Lane School and Green Hill School and a plan to eliminate 235 beds in Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration (JRA) facilities. Why wasn’t Naselle Youth Camp and/or Echo Glenn included in this study? Because Senator Hargrove is protecting Democratic Districts—especially Naselle Youth Camp. This is NOT what is best for the agency as a whole. It is not what is best for community safety!

  2. areyouforreal says:

    The state was considering cutting back or totally eliminating from 3 juvenile facilities: the maximum security facility in Chehalis that holds our worst teen offenders at Green Hill, the Maple Lane facility that houses teens with DA problems and mental health issues in south Thurston County, and the Naselle Youth Camp in Pacific County which is a minimum security facility. Gov. Chris Gregoire’s staff recommended closing the Naselle Youth Camp. Unfortunately, the decision turned political. The Democrat-controlled state Legislature allowed one of its powerful committee heads, Sen. Hargrove to make sure that only Green Hill and Maple Lane schools could even be considered for cuts to the juvenile prison system. The independent consultant hired to review possible cutbacks and/or closures was tasked with only considering Green Hill or Maple Lane. Any comment on Naselle was barred. Yet the final budget called for the closure of Maple Lane.

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