“Significant” injuries were reported after a fight Saturday in the Eastman Youth Development Center in Eastman, Ga. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is investigating the incident. Todd Lowery, assistant special agent in charge of GBI’s Eastman field office, told The Macon Telegraph, “There was some violence against some of the staff and some of the detainees.”
The GBI has not determined what caused the fight, although several youth were involved. According to a Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice press release, one detainee was sent to a an outside medical facility for treatment. Lowery told The Telegraph he didn’t know how severe the injuries were, but he said, “some of the injuries were significant.”
After two incidents at the Eastman Youth Development Campus last week, director Todd Weeks is out. Department of Juvenile Justice Commissioner Amy Howell took action on Friday, tapping George Smith to fill the job on an interim basis. A statement from DJJ says, “The Commissioner is actively moving the Eastman YDC in a new direction with new leadership. “
Smith will be coming out of retirement to run Eastman. Until last November he was Deputy Director of Facilities Operations at the Georgia Department of Corrections. He spent 34 years with the agency. Eastman houses some of the toughest young offenders in the state – older teens who have committed serious crimes. Disturbances there are not new. Last May, an uprising led to an escape. In the latest incident on February 2nd, a correctional officer was injured and treated at a local hospital, according to DJJ spokesperson Scheree Moore. On January 30, about 60 inmates acted out and refused to follow orders. Five of them beat a guard with a broom handle, and several set small fires in a dorm. Someone at Eastman called for help and six police agencies rushed to the campus. It took about an hour to get the inmates back in their cells. Last week’s incidents remain under investigation. The statement from DJJ adds, “Commissioner Howell is taking these incidents that are occurring at Eastman very seriously and is committed to providing a safe and secure environment to the youth that are housed and the employees that work at the facility.”
Five law enforcement agencies rushed to the Eastman Youth Development Campus on Sunday night, after a call for help from the staff. The Dodge County Sheriff’s Office says a correctional officer was attacked by several inmates who tried to beat him with a broomstick. Inmates in one dorm set several small fires using bed linens and trash, and 60 others refused to return to their cells. It took more than an hour to get control of what the Sheriff’s Office is calling a riot. Officers from Dodge County, Wilcox County, Abbeville Police, Eastman Police and Fire, and Middle Georgia College all helped YDC staff get the inmates back in their cells before leaving at 9pm. Eastman has the highest level of security for juvenile offenders in the state, with 330 beds for young men, 17 to 20 years old, who are committed for serious crimes. Last May, a bigger uprising led to an escape at Eastman. The Department of Juvenile Justice released only this brief statement about Sunday’s incident and would not answer questions:
On Sunday, January 30, 2011, a disturbance took place at Eastman Youth Development Campus. Initially some youth refused to comply with verbal commands given by juvenile correctional officers. Subsequently, local law enforcement was called in to assist in returning the youth to their housing units. The situation was brought under control and no youth were injured. One juvenile correctional officer received minor injuries during the incident, but did not require outside medical attention.