A representative from the Department of Juvenile Justice was in Augusta for the District Five Quarterly Breakfast meeting Saturday to speak about the changes and upheaval at the Augusta Youth Development Campus.
The breakfast featured former State Senator Carol Jackson, who was appointed by DJJ commissioner Gale Buckner to represent them at the breakfast. Jackson brought Angela Cosby, the director for the Augusta Regional Youth Detention Center. The two women spoke about the direction Buckner is taking the Georgia DJJ and took questions.
Audience members voiced concerns that the youth inside the YDCs are not being cared for. Jackson was quick to defend Buckner’s leadership abilities and said the firings and changes have been in the best interest of the youths.
Eight employees, including Director John Brady and several corrections officers, have been fired from the Augusta YDC since November. One has resigned and another has said he will resign. Two others were demoted.
When asked about education inside the facilities, Jackson said the DJJ is a district school that has some teachers with doctorates. Buckner is considered the superintendent. She said YDC not only graduates students from high school, but also provides GEDs and vocational certificates.
One person said they thought the staff at the YDCs are not there for the kids, but for a paycheck, which may be the problem.
Jackson also said the YDCs were soon going to become a lot more involved in the community. They will be starting mentoring and faith-based programs and asked the people in the audience for support.
Jackson spoke at length about Buckner’s qualifications,which Cosby reiterated. Cosby has been employed with the DJJ for 27 years and is part of Buckner’s task force assigned to perform surprise visits to the state’s YDCs.
“This is the first time that I have been across the state and felt like the kids are safe,” she said. “I think this department, right now, is going in a direction that is long overdue. I’m excited about the direction we are going in. In fact, I can probably retire in December, but if Commissioner Buckner stays around, I want to stay with her.”