For nearly a century, Samarkand Youth Development Center in Eagle Springs housed some of the state’s most troubled children until it closed in 2011.
Now the state is planning a $10 million renovation to convert it into law enforcement training center, the first of its kind in North Carolina, said state Rep. Jamie Boles.
Boles, a Southern Pines Republican, pushed for funding to be included in the state’s newly adopted two-year budget.
The budget includes $5 million a year in the next two fiscal years to renovate and update the former rehabilitation center on a wooded 450-acre site in northwestern Moore County.
“The potential is so huge for this facility,” said Boles, who serves as chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Justice and Public Safety. “I get goose bumps every time I think about what it can be. It’s really going to be something we can all be proud of.
“It will be a great asset for this state and Moore County.”
The new state budget may also have spared another Moore County site: the historic House in the Horseshoe. That site was facing closure earlier this year. Boles said the budget cuts $50,000 from the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources budget for historic sites and allows the department the “flexibility to spread it around” and not have to close any sites.
Boles said the funding included in the budget for Samarkand will pay for renovating some buildings and updating them by adding new heating and air conditioning systems, and razing others.
That will allow the N.C. Department of Public Safety to provide overnight housing for statewide law enforcement training for corrections officer, alcohol law enforcement officers, State Bureau of Investigations and state Highway Patrol troopers, Boles said. It will also have a firing range that could also be used by the National Guard, he added.
“Right now, we don’t have a statewide facility,” Boles said. “We rent from community colleges.”
Boles said the state is short about 800 correction officers in the prison system. This new facility would provide better training for them, which he said should improve retention rates.
“This is something that is really needed,” Boles said. “This will be a state-of-the-art facility that these agencies deserve.”
Boles said he plans to push for funding next year to add a road course for vehicle training.
Once all of the renovations are completed, funding will be included in the state budget to begin operating the center in 2015, which Boles anticipates will have at least 20 employees.
He envisions classes of 20 to 30 officers going through training at a time
“It will be an economic boost for Moore, Montgomery and Richmond counties,” Boles said.
Boles fought unsuccessfully two years ago to keep Samarkand open after winning a reprieve in the previous biennial budget. When it closed June 30, 2011, the facility housed just 26 boys and had 56 employees. It had housed as many as 200 juvenile offenders.
Until the year before it closed, the facility had housed teenage girls. Juveniles were sent there by a judge after committing violent or serious crimes, such as attempted murder or armed robbery. Other juveniles are chronic offenders.
Boles said that when he was first elected to the House in 2008, there were 2,500 juveniles in state detention centers. He said that because of the passage of the Justice Reinvestment Act in 2011, that number had dropped to 400.
In 2008, Juvenile Justice built four new facilities and reduced the populations at its older youth development centers, such as Samarkand, preferring to have more facilities holding few offenders than a few large ones, state officials said then.
Boles said there are some 15 buildings on the Samarkand site that include dormitories, classrooms, dining hall, an auditorium that can seat 400 and a full-size church. It has a basketball court and baseball field.
“It is just sitting there unused,” Boles said.