DJJ’s Howell Promises New Direction at Troubled Eastman YDC

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.”