Former CSS shown to potential tenants
Houston County Courier
By Lynda Jones
Two organizations made their second visit to the former Crockett State School (CSS) property Thursday, April 25. A Blackhawk helicopter brought the first group, members of the Texas National Guard and representatives of the Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD). The second group represented Cornerstone, a juvenile rehabilitation institution based in Salt Lake City, UT. Houston County Judge Erin Ford said each group was looking at the facility to determine if it fits the needs of their respective programs. "Obviously, there won't be a commitment from either group to occupy the school until they have evaluated whether it fits their purposes," Ford said. According to Ford, the Texas National Guard wants to establish two 22-week boot camps for youth offenders in a facility like the vacant CSS site. He explained that the Texas National Guard has a long history of establishing such juvenile training camps. Following the walkthrough of the CSS property, the group flew to Beaumont for a second tour of the closed Al Price State School facility. The Cornerstone visit to the CSS property was coordinated by the Crockett Economic and Industrial Development Corporation (CEIDC) and Mel Brown and Associates (MBA), Ford said. "A great deal of effort has been made to establish these and other contacts in the juvenile detention program, with respect to the state school over the last six months," Ford said. "We're cautiously optimistic about reopening (the former CSS property), but we don't want to build false hopes in the communities prematurely. Mayor (Wayne) Mask and (CEIDC Executive Director) Thom Lambert are working through the economic development corporation on the vetting process, with MBA's support, and we're hopeful for a positive outcome." Ford said Mel Brown and Associates also was scheduled to meet with Sheriff Darrel Bobbitt to discuss options for the old jail facility. It will be a more difficult task to establish a private institution for that building than the state school, but they are working on it." The county currently does not have a service contract with Mel Brown and Associates for the old jail property, but the Houston County Commissioners Court could approve one at some point since that building is owned by the county, Ford added. "I want to thank Mayor Mask, Thom Lambert and Chris von Doenhoff for their support and direction in these efforts," Ford said. According to the Cornerstone Programs website, the organization has an 88-bed juvenile (male and female) facility in Post that features secure programs for sex offender treatment, substance abuse treatment and post-adjudicated treatment in addition to detention services for counties throughout west Texas. Cornerstone's Utah sites include the Farmington Bay Youth Center and the Salt Lake Valley Detention Center. The Farmington Bay center in Utah features a 45-day observation and assessment program for youth committed by the juvenile court and a detention unit for juveniles pending court adjudication. The facility is run by Cornerstone through a contract with the State of Utah Department of Human Services Division, Juvenile Justice Services. A local school district operates the on-grounds school. The Salt Lake Valley Detention Center offers secure care and custody for adolescent males and females ages 10-18 who are awaiting disposition with the court system, being transferred to another jurisdiction or agency, or are committed to a juvenile detention center.