New Augusta YDC director, assistants appointed

Ronald Brawner says he knows he has a lot of work to do as the newly named director of the Augusta Youth Development Campus.

“I wouldn’t say it’s going to be hard, (but) it is going to be challenging,” he said Friday, taking over the facility that has seen a series of staff dismissals and revelations of staff misbehavior after the beating death of a teen resident last fall.

“Anytime you take on a new position or a new job, you have to step up to the plate and understand challenges before you,” he said. “You have to take it in small steps, small pieces.”

State Department of Juvenile Justice Commis­sion­er Gale Buckner introduced Brawner and two assistants Friday at a hastily arranged news conference at the Augusta facility on Mike Padgett Highway.

Brawner was chosen to lead the campus because of his almost 21-year career with the Georgia Department of Corrections, which includes serving as the superintendent of the Augusta Transitional Center since 2005, Buckner said. He holds an associate’s degree in criminal justice and a bachelor’s in business administration and is pursuing a master’s degree in management.

“We identified very rapidly that he had the skills and capabilities needed to come on this campus in Augusta and promote this campus as it should be,” Buckner said. “We’re very pleased to have him on board with us.”

She also announced the appointment of two assistant directors.

Melvin Womble is the new assistant director of security for the campus. He is a retired drill instructor and platoon sergeant with the Army and spent two years as a unit manager at the Augusta State Medical Prison, where he managed a close-security dorm with 400 inmates. He received the Warden’s Award in both 2009 and 2010, and is a Georgia high school football referee, Buckner said.

Aisha Hunter is the new assistant director of programs. Buckner said she has worked at Augusta YDC since 2005, when she was hired as a correctional counselor. Before that, she was a social services tech for Georgia Pines Residential Services in Moultrie, Ga. She has a master’s degree in criminal justice from Capella University.

“I look forward to enhancing the programs here in Augusta YDC so we can return the youth back to society as law-abiding citizens,” Hunter said.

Brawner replaces John Brady who was fired Dec. 5 during an investigation into the beating death of a teen resident.

Since then, Augusta YDC has been the site of two sexual-assault complaints by residents, and several unannounced visits from state officials and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation have led to the firing of nine employees, demotion and transfer of two and suspension of another. Some of the employees have been fired for sexual misconduct with residents, the state had said.

Gary Jones, the police chief of Sardis, Ga., served as interim director of the facility while a permanent replacement was sought.

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