By Kiernan BrissonPublished: Aug. 7, 2020 at 12:56 AM EDT|Updated: 10 hours ago
COLCHESTER. Vt, (WCAX) – Vermont’s only youth detention center has been under the microscope in recent years, following lawsuits and a facility that’s said to be not fit for children. The state is now debating yet again on the future of Woodside, and closing the doors to care for youth is on the table. The Vermont Department for Children and Families believes the Woodside Juvenile Rehabilitation Center is no longer serving its purpose to serve troubled youth, and DCF Commissioner Sean Brown says the imposing structure only creates more challenges.
“It was built as a detention facility; it’s really more of jail-like-type setting than a treatment facility,” Brown said. “In that way, it’s really counterproductive to what we’re trying to do in terms of treatment the youth and support them.”
Earlier this summer, Disability Rights Vermont sued the state over the mistreatment of youth at Woodside. Since then, the population at the Colchester facility has decreased to only one person who will be moved shortly. DCF says it is not taking in any more youth at the facility, a decision that A.J. Ruben, supervisory attorney for Disability Rights Vermont, applauds.
“Our preference would be that they don’t put youth back in that facility because the building itself is not appropriate for youth with mental health disabilities or conditions,” Ruben said. “We’re glad that they’re going to make progress on it sooner than later.
Right now, the state is leaning toward contracting a community provider to treat the youth at a new location. Commissioner Brown says it’s unlikely the current space will be used.
“I don’t see us having a future in that building,” Brown said. “And there shouldn’t be a future for us in that building just given it doesn’t meet our needs. We are keeping our options open, with the understanding that we’re going to pursue the path that is the best for the youth that we are trying to serve.”
We expect to have more clarity on the state’s plans near the end of the month.