"They just didn't get the right advice on how to build (Salem)," Dodson said.
Still, Dodson encouraged observers to "overlook the building" and look at the kinds of care troubled youths are receiving there.
DeMuro said the institution itself was too prison-like to keep using.
"I don't think it's just a matter of getting the right shrink in the room," he said.
DeMuro complimented Salem's staff but did not shy away from questioning their efforts.
"It's not the people that are evil," he said.
"The approach needs to be rethought."
Instead, he says juveniles should be given counseling in their communities rather than being sent away and locked up. DeMuro thinks the most serious offenders should be kept in smaller institutions closer to their homes.
Dodson said the state is already doing some of this. While he did not dispute DeMuro's assessment, he wondered about the pace.
"It's easy to say it," Dodson said, "but it's not easy to do it."
DeMuro also worried about political obstacles to closing a state-run facility that provides 200 jobs in North Central West Virginia. He said the state should do everything it can to make sure Salem's staff have jobs if the facility is closed.
DeMuro also found the state Department of Health and Human Resources is spending $25 million to $30 million a year to send 338 kids to private treatment centers in other states. (For comparison, the Division of Juvenile Services' entire budget is about $42 million.)
Some lawmakers and child advocates have long argued DHHR would spend less and do a better job for children if these few hundred kids were not shipped to facilities in other states.