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Friday, May 24, 2024


The Youth Rehabilitation Center on St. Croix is a less troubled and better-run facility than it was just six months ago, according to testimony at a Monday night Senate Committee on Youth and Human Services hearing.
At a hearing in May, the center came in for much criticism, especially for mixing young offenders with older criminals and its physical condition.
Department of Human Services commissioner Sedonie Halbert told committee Chairwoman Judy Gomez that one of the major changes has been the replacement of the center's superintendent four months ago. Since Carol Battuello took over in July, she has "restored order and won respect." A YRC guard, Sgt. Randall Joshua, said morale among the staff has improved greatly under her watch.
Halbert said improvements have been made to the physical structure including plumbing repairs, added beds and new screens. She said the classrooms have been nearly completely repainted, with juvenile residents helping out.
She also said there is a planned new facility which will consist of two 17-bed dorms. YRC was designed for 27 juveniles, but "houses over 40 on any given day," she said. These facilities will be built with funds from the Law Enforcement Planning Commission. A halfway house has been built, she said, which will house eight juveniles with minimum security to aid their transition back into the community.
Several officials from V.I. Behavioral Services, which provides medical and mental health services at the center, spoke about conditions there. Dr. Rita Dudley-Grant, VIBS program director, said she had worked with former Human Services commissioner Catherine Mills for two years, trying to get medical services for the youth center. She said YRC has been greatly improved from five years ago.
Dr. Lenard Lexier, medical director for the YRC, is on call seven days a week, 24 hours a day, she said. Dudley-Grant said Lexier provides timely, detailed mental health reports for court hearings. She said previously the reports were always late, and usually said no more than "needs further counseling."
Halbert said the Education Department should be more aware of learning-disabled children, and not allow them to wind up at the YRC because of their undetected deficiencies .
Sen. Donald "Ducks" Cole, the only committee member other than Gomez at the hearing, said he had visited the facility earlier this year and "it was very deplorable
"I feel good to see this progress," he said.
Gomez said that despite what she had heard, she wanted a copy of Behavioral Services' contract with Human Services so she could send it off-island for reevaluation.

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