Head of Troubled Maryland Detention Center Once Led Swan Valley School

By Beacon Staff

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) – The new head of a troubled juvenile center in Maryland’s Frederick County once led a Montana youth academy that closed amid allegations of mistreatment, state officials said.

However, Department of Juvenile Services Secretary Donald W. DeVore said Montana authorities cleared Chris Perkins of all allegations of child abuse or neglect last December.

Perkins, who is being promoted to director of statewide detention facilities, was brought in this summer to reopen the Victor Cullen Center campus. Perkins told The (Baltimore) Sun Friday that he didn’t make Maryland officials aware of the Montana closure because he had been exonerated.

“It’s unfairly prejudicial,” Perkins said.

Marlana R. Valdez, Maryland’s independent juvenile justice monitor, said her monitors have not found any mistreatment of youth at the Cullen center, but said the revelation raises questions about the department’s hiring practices.

Perkins directed a facility in Montana’s Swan Valley from October 2003 until July 2005. Perkins said he returned in October of that year to replace a director who resigned, and stayed until the program closed in early 2006.

After he returned, a youth advocacy organization alleged a youth had been abused at the center, and a state investigation found 19 violations, including excessive restraint, seclusion of youth, verbal assaults and humiliation by staff.

Disclosure of the findings led to the voluntary closure of the Swan Valley facility, said Joe Newman, president of Colorado-based Cornerstone Programs, which ran the Montana operation. Newman said Maryland officials did not contact his company for information about Perkins.

Perkins left Cornerstone in 2006 to work for a similar company in Pennsylvania, which DeVore said provided glowing recommendations.