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Published: Saturday, 6/12/2004

Michigan confirms school to stay open

BY GEORGE J. TANBER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Michigan officials confirmed yesterday what Lenawee County residents and officials had heard all week: The Adrian Training School will not be closing.

"I think that probably is a pretty safe assumption," said Maureen Sorbet, spokesman for the Family Independence Agency.

The agency directs the state's juvenile justice facilities, among them the 100-bed Adrian school which houses 52 female and 35 male charges ages 12 to 21 and employs 127 county residents.

Agency officials said this year they wanted to close the Adrian school and transfer its residents to the W.J. Maxey facility at Whitmore Lake, Mich., to save money and consolidate a juvenile justice system that has seen declining participants. But this week, Kate Hanely, interim director of the juvenile justice bureau, told local officials, community leaders, and program managers at the school that she wanted to move the school's boys to Maxey and

keep the girls at Adrian.

However, for months the agency has said the justice bureau is working on a final proposal that will be sent to agency Director Marianne Udow, who will pass her recommendation to Gov. Jennifer Granholm, who is to decide the issue.

Ms. Sorbet said yesterday that despite Ms. Hanley's comments, her final proposal has not yet reached Ms. Udow's desk or the governor's, which was confirmed by Governor Granhom's spokesman.

Local officials and activists have called the agency's remarks and actions conflicting and confusing.

"What we're concerned about is that activities are taking place to move forward while they're talking about still considering what is [going to happen]," said Kimberley Davis of the Citizens for Youth Advocacy. "It appears to be a done deal already."

Ms. Sorbet confirmed the agency's decision to keep the school open after The Blade learned yesterday that the agency has transferred an official from the W.J. Maxey facility to the Adrian school.

Sandra Bow, who directs the individual mental health program at Maxey, will assume a similar role in Adrian with the school's female residents, Ms. Sorbet said. "It's a relatively new program at Adrian, [so] it's expected that her experience in the mental health area will be very beneficial in helping to further develop this program," she added.

Ms. Bow will begin her duties next week, but her position at Adrian is considered a temporary assignment, Ms. Sorbet said.

Meanwhile, The Blade learned yesterday that another Maxey employee, shift supervisor Mike Jones, has been working at the Adrian school since March.

"[We] have not yet determined when he will return [to Maxey]," Ms. Sorbet said. "The decision will be made after Sandra arrives and they have some time to consult."

Ms. Sorbet said transferring juvenile justice employees to different facilities isn't unusual. "We move people around from county to county and from facility to facility as needed," she said.

Ms. Davis, who is certain Adrian's boys will be transferred to Maxey, criticized the transfer of Ms. Bow from the maximum security, all-male Maxey facility to the Adrian school, which houses less serious offenders.

"We have a problem with that. You have to look at the fact that Adrian has a successful girls and boys program. It goes back to the original question: Why are you wanting to change the program to put someone over it who only has experience with boys at a higher-security facility? It does not make sense," she said.

Contact George J. Tanber at gtanber@theblade.com

or 734-241-3610.



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