In Georgia: New Boss Takes over Department of Juvenile Justice

The third commissioner within a little more than a year holds his first regular Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice Board meeting, conducting workaday business on bonds and education, while a recruitment drive starts up. “I thank the governor [Nathan Deal] and the DJJ Board for their confidence and I will work diligently to maintain their trust,” said Avery Niles upon his swearing-in. “We look forward to making real changes in the lives of our young offenders.” Niles, commissioner since Nov. 2, had been board chair and leaves his job as Hall County Correctional Institution warden to take over DJJ. Audrey Armistad, associate superintendent of the DJJ school system announced that a pilot education program pushed by Deal will soon start up in south Georgia’s Eastman Regional Youth Detention Center.  That facility holds older youth on long-term sentences, some of whom have already graduated high school or gotten a GED.

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.

Firings and Contraband at Georgia’s Troubled Youth Detention Centers

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is wrapping up its criminal investigation at the state’s youth prison in Augusta and plans to present its findings to Richmond County prosecutors by mid-February. The Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) is pulling together its own findings after unannounced visits to Augusta and the state’s 25 other jails and prisons for youth offenders in recent weeks, DJJ Commissioner Gale Buckner said Thursday. Those findings — which have already led to disciplinary actions and policy changes — have been shared with leadership at each institution and should be consolidated into a single report, also by mid-February, for Gov. Nathan Deal and DJJ board members. “We’ve had a lot of personnel changes at Augusta, and it’s not over,”

Buckner told the DJJ board during a meeting of its members on Thursday. At least a dozen staff members have already lost their jobs at Augusta in the aftermath of the Nov.

Investigation Leads to Sex Allegations at Augusta, Georgia Youth Detention Center

The Augusta, Ga. youth detention denter, where a 17-year-old was beaten to death in November, continues to be the focus of an investigation by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI). A team of 20 agents conducted interviews Tuesday as part of the murder probe. They were also there to investigation new allegations of sexual contact (some confirmed) between security personnel and detained youth, according to The Athens Banner-Herald. Gale Buckner, commissioner of the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), briefed members of the Augusta legislative delegation on the ongoing joint investigation by DJJ and GBI.

Youth Detention Centers in Georgia Rife With Problems Says Juvenile Justice Commissioner

Low pay, poor training and an unsafe work environment have led to unacceptable turnover among guards at Georgia’s youth jails and prisons, Juvenile Justice Commissioner Gale Buckner says. ”By the time we get our juvenile correctional officers trained, they’re leaving us,” she said Tuesday. The Department of Juvenile Justice reported a 54 percent turnover rate in 2011, up by nearly one-third over the previous year. Buckner, in a briefing for Augusta-area legislators, offered no specifics about a criminal probe into the recent fatal beating of a 19-year-old youth at the state’s Augusta Youth Development Campus. But the former GBI agent addressed a wide range of security issues, including the possible need for a “super-max” facility to house some of the YDC’s most violent youths.

Cuts to Juvenile Justice System in Georgia Won’t Compromise Safety, Says Commissioner

Georgia’s juvenile justice system is eliminating jobs just as many other state agencies are, but Commissioner Gale Buckner of the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) promised Wednesday that none of the cuts will compromise the safety of youthful offenders. Directed by Gov. Nathan Deal to cut spending on current programs by 2 percent, the DJJ submitted a proposed 2013 budget that trims clerical and administrative positions, four teachers and two dozen staffers in a program offering intensive community-based programs supervision. But, Buckner told state House and Senate budgetwriters Wednesday, “no position that is safety- or security-related will be cut.” Buckner was responding to the concerns of state Rep. Quincy Murphy of Augusta, where a 19-year-old was fatally beaten two months ago in his cell at a youth development campus. A 17-year-old resident of the facility was charged with murder in the incident.

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.

How Safe Are Georgia’s Youth Detention Facilities?

The beating death this week of 19-year-old inmate Jade Holder at an Augusta, Ga., Youth Development Campus (YDC) is the latest in a series of incidents that have renewed focus on safety levels within Georgia youth detention facilities. Last week, for the second time in six months, county police were called on to quell a riot at the DeKalb County Regional Youth Detention Center (RYDC). In May, a murder suspect escaped from the DeKalb RYDC, only to be found and returned a few days later. And in July, the Eastman YDC was the scene of a fight that led to an investigation by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI). These incidents have all come after an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice over implementing changes at the facilities, something that was supposed to improve and stabilize the system.

UPDATE: Gale Buckner Named New Georgia Juvenile Justice Commissioner

L. Gale Buckner has been named the new commissioner of the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ). Buckner was a long-time agent of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and currently serves as Vice Chair of the Board of Pardons and Paroles. Current DJJ commissioner Amy Howell will join the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD) as General Counsel at the request of Gov. Nathan Deal. In 2010, state and federal officials reached an agreement that places DBHDD’s focus on community-based care following a three-year investigation by the U.S. Justice Department into allegations DBHDD was violating patients’ civil rights.