Georgia DJJ Audit of YDC Found Numerous Violations Months Before Detainee Escape

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In October, five young detainees escaped from Georgia’s Augusta Youth Development Campus (YDC). Just a few days later, the facility’s then-Director, Ronald Brawner, resigned. An internal audit released last month by the state’s Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) indicates that the facility had numerous departmental policy violations prior to the escape, with an interview conducted earlier in the year revealing that Brawner’s staff failed to maintain proper documentation or develop an emergency plan for the YDC, according to The Augusta Chronicle.

Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice Commissioner Avery Niles stated last month that the DJJ told administrators and personnel at the YDC to improve facility safety and make departmental improvements. A late-August DJJ evaluation verified that the facility did not have cooperative agreements in place with emergency officials, such as local police.  Additionally, an auditor determined the YDC was both constructed unsafely and staffed by an “excessive” number of uncertified security personnel.

In examining grievances filed by the facility’s detainees, eight of 113 cases involved alleged incidences of bullying, harassment by staff and other young people and accusations of personnel misconduct. Auditors stated that no special incident reports were filed, so none of the grievances were ever investigated.

The auditors also said that an interview with Brawner indicated that required debriefing conversations with young people following specific incidents were either inconsistent or never conducted at all. Out of 63 detainees that requested to see a counselor, auditors found that 12 did not see one within 72 hours. Additionally, auditors said three out of four young people enrolled in required programs for sexually abusive detainees were not receiving counseling. One auditor wrote that a young detainee under suicide watch was able to “self harm with items/objects on three different occasions.”

Niles said a new director would be in place at the facility by mid-month. “Escapes and poor performance audits will not be tolerated,” he told Augusta Fox-affiliate WFXG.

File photo by Ryan Schill | JJIE

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