Firings and Contraband at Georgia’s Troubled Youth Detention Centers


The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is wrapping up its criminal investigation at the state’s youth prison in Augusta and plans to present its findings to Richmond County prosecutors by mid-February.

The Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) is pulling together its own findings after unannounced visits to Augusta and the state’s 25 other jails and prisons for youth offenders in recent weeks, DJJ Commissioner Gale Buckner said Thursday. Those findings -- which have already led to disciplinary actions and policy changes -- have been shared with leadership at each institution and should be consolidated into a single report, also by mid-February, for Gov. Nathan Deal and DJJ board members.

“We’ve had a lot of personnel changes at Augusta, and it’s not over,”

Buckner told the DJJ board during a meeting of its members on Thursday.

At least a dozen staff members have already lost their jobs at Augusta in the aftermath of the Nov. 7 beating death of Jade Holder, 19, in his cell at the facility.  One employee, Marlon McCreary, was fired for allegedly leaving cell doors unlocked in the unit, which allowed the fatal assault to occur.

A 17-year-old youth has been charged with murder in the attack.

Firings of two more correctional officers at Augusta were announced Wednesday. Kenneth Payton was terminated for allegedly initiating a physical altercation with a youth in DJJ custody, and Dondale Stroman was dismissed for alleged improper use of physical intervention techniques.

Twenty GBI agents descended on the Augusta campus Tuesday, starting at 5 a.m., to re-interview staff members one last time and allow workers to volunteer any additional information they might have.

This hand-written business plan, developed by  one Georgia inmate, proves the American tradition of entrepreneurship is alive and well, even behind bars. 


Contraband taken during the announced visits was on display today at DJJ’s board meeting. Seized items included cigarettes, drugs, DVDs, homemade weapons and gang-associated writings and drawings.

One hand-written sheet looked much like a rudimentary business plan for selling cigarettes inside a youth prison, including statistics on the percentage of boys and girls who smoke and estimates of unit sales (5,760 packs per year) and projected revenue over five years ($90,000) and 10 years ($180,000).

DJJ this week advertised for applicants for the director’s job at the Augusta YDC and hopes to hire one by March 2, when interim director Gary Jones returns to his job as police chief of Sardis, Ga.

Gov. Deal appointed Jones to run the Augusta YDC for 90 days in early December when former director John Brady was fired.


Photos: Jim Walls

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