Commissioner Announces New Chairman to Head Georgia’s DJJ Board

Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice Commissioner Gale Buckner confirmed the Board’s election of Avery Niles to head the state’s DJJ Board. Niles fills the Chairman post formerly held by long-time Board member Ed Risler, who stepped down earlier this week following the expiration of his term last summer. Niles, a 23-year veteran of the Hall County Sheriff’s Department and current warden of the Hall County Correctional Institution, was appointed to the Board by Gov. Deal in July 2011. As Chairman, Niles will “help guide Board Members as they serve in their advisory capacity to DJJ, providing leadership and counsel to the Commissioner to help improve Georgia’s juvenile justice system,” according to a DJJ release. “I am honored to serve in this capacity,” Niles said.

Former Georgia DJJ Officer Arrested for Alleged Sexual Assault of 14-Year-Old in Custody

A former Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) corrections officer was arrested Wednesday for alleged sex crimes that occurred while she was a staff member at the Regional Youth Detention Center (RYDC) in Gainesville. Ardith Brown faces charges of felony child molestation and sexual assault against persons in custody. Brown was removed from duty at the RYDC and suspended in January after other corrections officers alerted a DJJ Safety and Security Team to evidence of officer misconduct during an unannounced inspection. She was terminated February 2 following a DJJ internal investigation into allegations Brown had an inappropriate relationship with a 14-year-old RYDC resident in DJJ custody. The Gainesville RYDC was the first DJJ secure facility to receive a surprise facility inspection after Commissioner L. Gale Buckner began a system-wide security sweep crackdown following a homicide at the Augusta YDC campus last November.

Report Names 5 Essential Principles for Georgia’s Juvenile Justice System

A new issue analysis by the Georgia Public Policy Foundation takes a close look at the state’s juvenile justice system and indentifies five essential principles for policy-makers to “increase the effectiveness and efficiency of the system.”

The report, written by Jeanette Moll and Kelly McCutchen, says 50,000 youths are in Georgia’s juvenile justice system every year, either awaiting adjudication or serving their sentences. Those youth, the authors write, “represent the future workforce and citizens of Georgia.”

The five essential principles focus simultaneously on rehabilitation and cost cutting, including placing low-level offenders into the least restrictive placements such as non-secure facilities and home-based community programming that is between 35 and 70 percent less expensive than secure detention. According to the report, these options also keep low-level offenders away from youth who pose a real danger to society. The report also calls for a comprehensive analysis of each youth in the system as well as systematic responses that focus on the offender’s family. Another cost-cutting measure that the report says may deter future crime is to avoid formal processing for first-time and low-level offenders.

Razor wire fence borders the Metro Regional Youth Detention center in Atlanta, Ga. JJIE Staff, 2010. File photo.

‘Corruption’ Rampant Inside Troubled Augusta YDC, Former Interim Director Says

Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) Commissioner Gale Buckner appointed a new director this week to lead the troubled Augusta Youth Development Campus (YDC). Ronald Brawner will take over from Interim Director Gary Jones, who is returning to his post as Sardis Police Chief, according to WJBF in Augusta. In November, DJJ and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation began a joint investigation at the facility after the beating death of an inmate. Another inmate was later charged with murder in connection with the death. The investigation led to the firing of almost 20 YDC personnel amid charges of sexual abuse and inmate possession of contraband.

New Georgia Juvenile Justice Commissioner Announces Staff Changes

Newly sworn-in Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) Commissioner Gale Buckner announced a series of appointments and staff changes Monday. According to a DJJ press release, Buckner hired four new high-level employees and promoted another. Among the newly hired were Shawanda Reynolds-Cobb, who takes over as Deputy Commissioner of Administrative Services; Tracy D. Masters, as the new Director of Legal Services; Carol Jackson as the new Director of Legislative Affairs and Diane Avery as Board and Constituent Liaison. Buckner promoted current DJJ Deputy Commissioner Jeff Minor to Assistant Commissioner. Minor will be second-in-command at the DJJ, according to the press release, but will continue to oversee the Offices of Budget Services and Human Resources.

Razor wire fence borders the Metro Regional Youth Detention center in Atlanta, Ga. JJIE Staff, 2010. File photo.

Employee Misconduct and Violence High At Augusta Georgia Youth Detention Facility

The Augusta, Ga., youth detention facility where a 19-year-old inmate was beaten in November and subsequently died ranks second among Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) facilities in employee misconduct, contraband and altercations between youth and staff. Only the Eastman YDC, according to reports obtained by The Augusta Chronicle, surpassed the Youth Development Campus (YDC) in Augusta. Jade Holder was severely beaten in his cell in Unit 43 of the Augusta YDC Nov. 7. He was pronounced brain dead at the hospital and died the following day.

Razor wire fence borders the Metro Regional Youth Detention center in Atlanta, Ga. JJIE Staff, 2010. File photo.

Captain at YDC Suspended During Investigation Into Inmate’s Death

A captain at the youth detention center in Augusta, Ga., has been suspended as part of an investigation into the death of a 19-year-old inmate Nov. 8, The Augusta Chronicle reported. Jade Holder died of blunt force trauma to the head after being beaten the previous day inside the YDC. Another inmate, 17-year-old Michael Jarod Everidge, was charged with Holder’s murder. Department of Juvenile Justice spokesperson Emily Gest told The Chronicle the captain was suspended with pay pending an investigation into possible misconduct.

High Turnover Rate at Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice is Typical of State Bureaucracries

With new Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) Commissioner Gale Buckner settling into her post, attention has turned back to the tenure of her predecessor. Former Commissioner Amy Howell was appointed to the DJJ’s top job by Gov. Nathan Deal in January and moved to her new post at the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities at Deal’s request on Nov. 7. At first glance it appears the DJJ lost a large number of employees in the last 10 months while Howell was commissioner. Between Jan.

Commissioner Amy Howell DJJ GJSA

Georgia DJJ Commissioner to Resign

Amy Howell, the first woman to head the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice is stepping down, according to a resignation letter obtained by JJIE. Gov. Nathan Deal, a former juvenile court judge, appointed Howell in January 2011 soon after he was inaugurated. An official announcement is expected Monday. The spokesperson for the DJJ declined to comment. According to the letter, at the request of Deal, Howell will become General Counsel for the Department of Behavioral Health & Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD) to “ensure one of our major agencies is running smoothly through a federal settlement and transition in service delivery.”

Clayton County, Ga. Juvenile Probation Officer Ronaldi Rollins

An Inside Look at a Typical Day on the Street with a Clayton County Juvenile Probation Officer

Ronaldi Rollins’ view from his corner office on the third floor is typical of metro Atlanta. A parking lot, some two-story apartment building, all nestled in the middle of a bunch of pine trees. Welcome to Jonesboro, Ga., command central for one juvenile probation officer in charge of 20 struggling teens. To pay a visit to Rollins, a kid has to make it past two levels of security. First, the metal detector and officer at the front door.