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.

Bad Mentoring Overheard While Waiting for the Elevator

Working in a juvenile court in metro Atlanta, I become a fly on the wall to some interesting conversations that take place among kids while they wait for appointments. Not long ago, while I was waiting for our reluctant elevator, I overheard a conversation that really caught my attention. Girl No. 1:  Smiling, “Hey, you know this is my second time in court … only my first time in this court though…”

Girl No. 2:  Eyes popping open wide, obviously impressed, “Really, aren’t you afraid you will have to go to the RYDC?” (Regional Youth Detention Center)

Girl No.

Disturbance at Paulding County, Georgia Regional Youth Detention Center

Two 17 year olds were taken into custody by Sheriff’s deputies late Friday after a disturbance at the Paulding County Georgia Regional Youth Detention Center, according to local authorities. The county Sheriff’s Department was called by officials at the YDC, a privately run facility northwest of Atlanta, to help quell the disturbance. The Dallas-Hiram Patch, quoted Sgt. Brandon Gurley of the Paulding County Sheriff’s Office as saying a “large number” were found outside their assigned areas. “They were causing a disturbance, there was a good bit of damage already on site — flooding, windows broken and things of that nature,” Gurley said.

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: 17-year-old Charged with Murder in Death of Inmate at Georgia Youth Detention Facility

A 17-year-old has been charged with the murder of the 19-year-old inmate at the Augusta Youth Development Campus. Michael Everidge will be charged as an adult and is in the custody of the Georgia Department of Corrections. A statement released by Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal’s office calls the incident  a “travesty.” “The state will fully investigate this alleged crime and report back on the facts,” the statement read, “but initial reports are disturbing. A new commissioner will take over Department of Juvenile Justice next week, and I will work with her to take swift and urgent action in this case.

Juveniles in Custody Dropped 12 Percent, New Report Says

A new report shows that nationally the total number of juvenile offenders in custody dropped by 12 percent from 2006 to 2008. The biannual census by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) surveyed juvenile residential facilities about population, size and security measures, among others. According to the report, the drop may be explained by a decline in juvenile arrests during the same period. OJJDP acting administrator Jeff Slowikowski writes in the report that while “crowding is still a problem in many facilities, improvements continue.” The number of facilities that were at or above their bed capacity dropped nearly 20 percent between 2000 and 2008. To read the complete report click here.

Fight at Georgia YDC Causes Injuries, Prompts Investigation

“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.”


Florida County to Detain Kids in Adult Jail

Central Florida’s Polk County has become the first jurisdiction in that state to make plans under a new state law to house juveniles who are awaiting trial in adult jail rather than in a state juvenile detention center, according to, a Winter Haven, Fla., news site. That change was made possible because Polk Sheriff Grady Judd pushed state Sen. J.D. Alexander, R-Lake Wales, to sponsor a bill in this year’s Florida Legislature that loosens the standards county jails must meet to house juveniles. The state currently charges counties $237 per day to hold each juvenile in pretrial detention, and that rate is expected to rise later this year. Judd told that the county expects to spend $70-$90 per day per juvenile detainee. He predicts the switch will save the county around $1.5 million.

Georgia RYDC map

[MAP] Georgia RYDC Locations

Budget troubles are beginning to cause problems for the juvenile justice system in Georgia. In an attempt to close a more than $5 million shortfall, Department of Juvenile Justice officials in the state recently announced the closing of two youth detention centers. Below is a map of all Regional Youth Detention Centers in Georgia, including the recently closed ones in Blakely and Griffin. For more information including addresses and telephone numbers, visit the DJJ page.

Sen. Jack Hill: ‘I’d like to see RYDCs operate more efficiently’

We’re asking lawmakers to weigh in on issues affecting children and the juvenile justice system in Georgia. In this installment of the interview series, State Senator Jack Hill (R-Reidsville) weighs in on the new Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) commissioner and how the cash-strapped agency may effectively cut costs. Senator Jack Hill

Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee
Former Chairman of K-12 Education, Ethics and Higher Education Committees. JJIE: What do you consider to be some of the main pressing issues facing juvenile justice in Georgia? J.H.: I know that the budget cutbacks are a setback, but I’ve been impressed with [DJJ’s] plans for efficient delivery of services.  I’ve been especially impressed with Commissioner Amy Howell’s work.