Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice Commissioner Avery D. Niles announced Thursday the suspension with pay of 20 DJJ investigators, including the Office of Investigation’s former chief investigator. The disciplinary actions come in the wake of a scathing report from the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics showing Georgia’s juvenile detention facilities had among the highest rates of sexual abuse reports in the country, which prompted Niles to assign an advisory committee to look into the matter.
In a press release, Niles said the advisory committee found more than 20 internal sexual abuse investigations from last year remained open longer than DJJ policy allowed. As a result, Niles said, he ordered the investigators’ suspensions “pending an investigation into alleged failure to carry out their assigned duties in a timely manner,” which Niles described as “a disturbing breach of confidence and fundamentally unacceptable.”
Niles continued: “These investigators have a duty to protect our youth and employees and to uphold the most basic standards of professional behavior,” .
According to Niles, the suspensions were necessary before the DJJ could continue its full investigation. “We had to take these immediate corrective actions to ensure all reports of sexual abuse and harassment are thoroughly investigated according to DJJ policy and state and federal law,” he said.
He also announced that the DJJ will be reaching out to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Georgia Department of Corrections for independent investigations of the sexual misconduct allegations. A “comprehensive, top-to-bottom reorganization of the Office of Investigations” is also forthcoming, Niles added.
“I gave clear warning when I was appointed Commissioner that serious violations of policy will not be tolerated in our professional juvenile justice workplace,” he said. “At the Department of Juvenile Justice, staff members who violate positions of trust and responsibility will continue to face severe consequences, regardless of time on the job, employee rank or position in this agency.”