A Georgia youth prison, recently found by a federal study to have the highest rate in the nation of sexual victimization of incarcerated youth, will close at the end of the year, the state Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) announced Monday.
The Paulding Regional Youth Detention Center in Dallas, Ga., is operated by private firm Youth Services International (YSI), whose contract to operate the RYDC will expire at the end of the year.
As part of a 2012 survey conducted by the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics, part of the Department of Justice, and published in June 2013, one in three youth incarcerated at the Paulding RYDC reported sexual victimization by staff during the previous 12 months, the highest rate in the nation.
DJJ Communications Director Jim Shuler told JJIE the BJS report was not a factor in closing the site.
“The strategic decision to close one of DJJ’s 28 secure facilities is being made before the year-end, after balancing overhead facility costs against the current trending population in this RYDC’s service area, while making millions in funds available for additional treatment and counseling services for thousands of youth in DJJ’s care and custody,” Shuler wrote in the email exchange. “The decision to close the Paulding Regional Youth Detention Center was based totally on economics. This decommissioning is a state agency business assessment based on cost savings and changing detention populations.”
The move would save DJJ more than $6 million annually, DJJ Director Avery Niles said in a prepared statement released Monday.
Niles said the state DJJ will not be severing ties with YSI, the focus of a recent Huffington Post investigation alleging frequent employee misconduct in YSI facilities nationwide.
“DJJ continues its longstanding relationship with YSI as they continue to operate another state owned secure facility in Crisp County and their own Youth Development Center in Milan, Georgia under contract with the State of Georgia,” he said. “We look forward to a substantial savings and a smooth transition of services.”
When asked, Shuler denied the Huffington Post expose was a factor in the decision to close the Paulding RYDC or to allow YSI’s contract to expire.
Mark Soler, executive director of the Center for Children’s Law and Policy, said that because state agencies usually spend a considerable amount of time deliberating whether to close a residential facility, the BJS report was likely not a large factor in the DJJ’s decision to close the Paulding detention center.
“A juvenile facility, whether publicly or privately run, is an ongoing venture,“ Soler said. “It may be they were considering closing it and trying to decide, and this may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back. … But generally, these decisions take months, if not longer, to make.”
About 50 juveniles are currently held at the facility. They will be relocated to other secured facilities in the metro Atlanta area beginning in early December.
Nearly 70 employees are expected to lose their jobs when the facility closes at the end of the year.