"If that's what they want, then that's going to cost a tremendous amount of money," Humphreys said.
Sen. Greg Tucker said he was "disturbed" to hear the agency has accepted the ruling and will not appeal or ask Aboulhosn to reconsider.
"That basically puts the burden on the Legislature to either come up with the money or let the court do it. Is that your strategy?" said Tucker, a Democrat and former Nicholas County prosecutor. "The court's not going to care about the cost. The court's going to tell you to pay for it, which means you're going to have to come to us and we're going to have to appropriate the money."
Aboulhosn concluded that Building A follows an outdated training or reform school approach to rehabilitating juveniles. This model is not only the most expensive but is increasingly considered a failure and appears particularly harmful to youths age 14 and younger, Aboulhosn found, citing expert testimony in the case.
That testimony instead touted community-based programs that focus on smaller groups to encourage relationship-building and determine the best way to provide needed drug, mental health or educational services, the judge found.
Both the judge and a court-appointed monitor have praised Superintendent David W. Jones for moving toward that approach in recent months. The ruling calls for legislation embracing such changes by Jones and his staff, noting that the improvements may last only as long as Jones is in charge.
Less than 70 juveniles are in Building A, down from a high of around 180, Humphreys said.