With no more youth offenders housed at facilities in Salem, state officials draw closer to closing an ugly chapter in West Virginia's juvenile corrections history.
The state announced Thursday the 16 remaining juvenile sex offenders housed at the Harriet B. Jones Treatment Center were sent to the Sam Perdue Juvenile Center in Mercer County.
The final three juveniles receiving behavioral and mental health services at the Jones center were transferred Wednesday to the James H. "Tiger" Morton Juvenile Center in Dunbar, said Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety spokesman Lawrence Messina.
"Throughout this transition, the West Virginia Division of Juvenile Services staff has pulled together as a strong team with a positive attitude," said Stephanie Bond, the division's acting director, in a news release.
"We are all looking forward to moving our agency in a direction consistent with current trends throughout the country and continuing to help the juveniles of our state."
A court order to vacate the center was the latest in a string of judicial actions regarding youth offender facilities in Salem.
In 2012, Charleston public interest law firm Mountain State Justice filed a lawsuit with the state Supreme Court alleging misconduct at the Industrial Home for Youth in Salem. The state's only maximum-security detention facility for youth at the time, the lawsuit alleged the center focused too much on punishment and too little on rehabilitation.
The Supreme Court appointed Cindy Largent-Hill, a former head of the Division of Juvenile Services, to monitor the systems and Mercer Circuit Judge Omar Aboulhosn to preside over the case.
In late 2012 Aboulhosn ordered the state to make sweeping changes at the facility. Instead, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin announced in March of this year the state would close the Industrial Home and instead use the facility as an adult prison.
The Jones center is located on the same property. While the Division of Juvenile Services was able to transfer offenders from the Industrial home, the special nature of the offenders at the Jones center made finding a new location difficult.