Aug. 26, 2015 — Severe understaffing and failures in training and mental health procedures appeared to be factors in the Easter Sunday suicide of a 14-year-old at an Atlanta area youth detention center. A state Department of Juvenile Justice probe, while drawing no direct connection, found dozens of violations of DJJ policies in a 78-page report on the death of Jimariya Davidson. The findings illustrate what some observers see as a frequently found gap between carefully considered policies and everyday practices in youth prisons across the country.
March 20, 2013 — Allegations of wrongdoing in the state’s juvenile prisons could be sealed from public view under a bill considered today by a House subcommittee. Witnesses for the state Department of Juvenile Justice said the bill was intended to protect children in custody from retaliation for reporting gang or other criminal activity. The current version of the bill, though, makes no mention of gangs or juvenile crime. Rather, it would exempt from disclosure “the information provided by children who report abuses or wrongdoing in the juvenile justice system.”
State officials have cleared three guards of accusations that they incited violence among girls held at a Rome juvenile detention facility. One of the guards was fired, though, for failing to prevent a Dec. 7 attack, and the other two were disciplined for unrelated policy violations. Some girls in the facility said they believed guards were complicit in some violence, but officials said the guards passed polygraph exams and “the totality of witness statements and information” did not support the charges.
Haley Bonds says she did everything she could think of to protect her 16-year-old daughter from the beatdown she was expecting at a youth jail in Northwest Georgia. Yet, just 20 minutes after a supervisor assured her Whitney Bonds would be safe, another officer called Haley
to say her daughter was “bleeding out” and being rushed to the emergency room. Two months later, Whitney says guards at the Rome RYDC used bribes of food to set one youth against another. “It’s like they’re dogfighting these kids,” her mother said.
Amy Howell, the first woman to head the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice, is stepping down after just 10 months on the job. Gov. Nathan Deal has named her general counsel for the Department of Behavioral Health & Developmental Disabilities to help oversee a federal mental health settlement.
Georgia has until June 30 to sign an interstate compact pledging cooperation in juvenile justice matters. Former Gov. Sonny Perdue refused, ostensibly because he felt it infringed on the state’s sovereignty. Without the compact, officials may have no way to monitor juvenile offenders who leave Georgia. The clock is ticking.
A state worker took advantage of lax oversight to refill his gas tank 40 times with the state’s money before anyone noticed, Georgia’s inspector general has found. The employee, a lieutenant at the Savannah Regional Youth Detention Center, used employee identification numbers (EINs) assigned to others when he used a state-issued fuel card to buy gas for himself, IG Elizabeth Archer said in a report issued Monday.
The State Ethics Commission voted today to reopen applications for its top administrative job and to interview three finalists at its Dec. 16 meeting. The commission interviewed three candidates last week but decided to solicit more applicants for the post. “We uniformly thought they were of very high quality,” commission member William Jordan said, “but there were none right now that we were ready to extend an offer to.”
The State Ethics Commission has named three finalists for its top administrative job: Cassandra Lawson, employee relations manager with the state Department of Juvenile Justice; John Truslow, associate director for the Center for Ethics and Corporate Responsibility at Georgia State University’s business school; and David Von, executive vice president of HomeCoast Capital LLC. Read the news release …