Georgia DJJ Boss: Recent Firings at Troubled YDC are Only the Beginning

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Two employees were ousted last week at Georgia’s troubled Augusta Youth Development Campus (YDC), and the state’s Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) Commissioner, Avery D. Niles, promised executive-level dismissals would follow.

“There have been many personnel changes at Augusta YDC over the previous year and I can promise you, I’ll be making more,” Niles said in a DJJ press release.

In 2011, the YDC gained national prominence after a youth in custody, 19-year-old Jade Holder, died following a fight with another inmate. It was the first ever homicide inside a Georgia YDC, according to a state DJJ spokesperson. A subsequent investigation of the death found that the detention facility’s cell doors were not locked at the time of the fight, Augusta’s News Channel 6 reported.

The Augusta detention center drew close scrutiny in recent months following several security incidents. In October, five youth escaped from the facility, leading to the subsequent resignation of the site’s director, Ronald Brawner, JJIE reported. Just weeks later, on Dec. 2, a 15-year-old resident was hospitalized following an assault by another detainee, leading to a probe of the facility by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, according to The Augusta Chronicle.

Earlier this week, as part of that investigation, the YDC’s recently appointed interim director, Melvin Womble, was suspended, according to a DJJ spokesperson. Additionally, the facility’s school principal, Brenda James-Ford, and a corrections lieutenant were fired. According to DJJ Commissioner Niles, the investigation discovered several security and safety policy violations.

“This performance failure may have hindered the ability of other key staff members to prevent the assault and subsequent injury,” Niles said in a DJJ press release Dec. 12.

Ford was fired for failing to report a letter of reprimand she received in a different school district. She was accused of changing grades, however investigators in Augusta say they have found no evidence of grad changing since Ford was hired.

“With help from the GBI looking for any criminal violations, we will continue to seek out safety and security deficiencies as the DJJ investigations continue,” Niles said.

Photo by Maggie Lee. 

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