The Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) announced the closing of the second regional youth detention center (RYDC) in as many days. The 30-bed Blakely RYDC in Early County will close effective April 1. The decision to close the facilities came after the DJJ budget was cut by $5.4 million.
DJJ Commissioner Amy Howell said the Griffin and Blakely RYDCs were chosen because of their proximity to other facilities and not performance.
“The decision was more based on data and not operations,” said Howell. “The work at both of these facilities was outstanding.”
Last year, the DJJ said up to four facilities, Griffin, Blakely, Claxton and Gwinnett, could be closed.
"I'm am totally flabbergasted by this news," said Captain Phillip Law of the Early County Sheriff's Department when reached at his office in Blakely. "We thought we had enough political pull to keep it open, but I guess we were wrong."
Youth at both the Griffin and Blakely RYDCs will be transferred to nearby detention centers so that they may remain close to their families.
But Law explained that closing the facility in Blakely will make the job of Sheriff's deputies much more difficult as they have to transport juveniles in Early County to court once a month. Deputies, he said, used to have to go across town to pick up youth at the detention center, now because of the closing, "we have to go half way across the state to pick them up. No, we are not the least bit happy about this."
The nearest facility to the Blakely RYDC is in Albany, Ga., approximately 50 miles away.
Law added that closing the facility would also have an adverse economic impact to the local community.
"This is going to have a big impact on everyone, law enforcement, the kids, their families and the community. This is just bad news," he said.
A DJJ press release said that employees at the closing RYDCs would be allowed transfers to other DJJ facilities and would not lose their jobs.