PHOTO GALLERY: Inside Metro RYDC, Ga.’s Largest Detention Center

JJIE.org reporter Chandra Thomas and photographer Clay Duda got a rare opportunity to go inside Metro Atlanta's Regional Youth Detention Center. Take the photo tour, and read more about what it's like to go to school behind a barbed wire fence.

Photos by Clay Duda for JJIE.org

Metro’s racial representation is in line with that of correctional facilities across the country – mostly male and mostly black.

Metro’s racial representation is in line with that of correctional facilities across the country – mostly male and mostly black.

Metro’s Director Debbie Alexander oversees all operations. “That’s my joy, seeing them make changes in their lives and getting a quality education,” she says.

A majestic arched fence topped by a mass of coiled barbed wire greets visitors who arrive at the Metro RYDC.

The Metro RYDC is where kids in trouble with the law live and learn while they navigate the juvenile justice system.

The Metro Regional Youth Detention Center is among Georgia’s 22 RYDCs and six Youth Development Centers.

Students considered a high security risk must wear bright orange jumpsuits.

From a control room hoisted atop a raised platform, security officers provide access to all gates and oversee all inside movement.

Plenty of strong messages line the Metro center’s walls, an obvious attempt to keep students thinking at all times.

“There needs to be more treatment and prevention programs to help them even after they get out,” says unit manager Vivian “Mama” Hughes

– “Here education is not an option,” says Education Supervisor Chalita Germany. “Here they have to come to school.”

The RYDC school day also includes physical education.

DJJ’s Muriel Horne says she’s not afraid to work at a detention center. “At a public school they might have a weapon. Here we know that they don’t!”

Instruction lasts from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. five days a week. There are three 55-minute classes each in the morning and three in the afternoon.

Principal Bobby Jordan is a DeKalb County Schools veteran.

Students work independently on Curriculum Activity Packets (CAPs). Teachers answer questions and guide.

While in the hallway, students must walk with their hands behind their backs.

A stay at Metro may last from a couple days to a maximum of five years.