SPLC: Close girls' detention centers

A report commissioned by the Southern Poverty Law Center suggests the state should close two Department of Youth Services detention facilities for delinquent girls and instead provide community-based treatment.

One of the facilities in the Birmingham area was damaged by a tornado Monday and will have to close at least temporarily for repairs.

The report released Tuesday and prepared for the SPLC, the Center for Public Representation and the Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program suggests closing the DYS facility for girls at Chalkville and a DYS program in Tuscaloosa.

The report was released at a time when state officials were assessing damage to the Chalkville facility which was hit by a tornado that caused heavy damage Monday in the Chalkville area.

Gov. Robert Bentley, while touring tornado damage Tuesday, said arrangements have been made to at least temporarily move the girls. An attorney for Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program, Nancy Anderson, said the state should save money on repairs and close the aging facility.

The study found that the Chalkville facility is costly to operate and consistently holds fewer than its capacity of 60 girls.

The governor's communications director, Rebekah Mason, said the Department of Youth Services has been working for several years to provide services for the girls outside the Chalkville facility. She said the state is also considering the future use of the Tuscaloosa facility.

"After seeing the destruction of the facility first hand, the Governor was amazed there was no loss of life there," Mason said concerning the Chalkville facility. "Following the storms, DYS was able to immediately place every resident into an appropriate setting."

The report said that there are not currently enough community based services available to ensure "that girls' needs are met in the community in a way that ensures public safety."

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