Two Augusta Youth Development Campus officers were fired Friday, in connection with the escape of five inmates in October, the Department of Juvenile Justice announced Friday.
Junior Corrections Officer Dominique Harris and Corrections Sgt. Dorothy Blair were dismissed as a result of findings from an investigation into the escape, Juvenile Justice spokesman Jim Shuler said at a news conference.
The latest terminations follow what new Juvenile Justice Commissioner Avery Niles called “a major security failure” at the facility on the night of Oct. 19, when five inmates ages 15 to 18 eluded a head count, escaped, stole a car and spurred a manhunt from Augusta to Atlanta, a news release said.
Harris was fired as a “result of failure to properly supervise and maintain control of youth(s) in his care, which contributed to the escape,” the release said. He was responsible for an improper population count in the unit where the escape originated, Shuler said.
Blair was fired “for failure to perform emergency procedural duties as the shift officer on duty at the time of the escape,” according to the release
That night, it took YDC officials at least one hour, 20 minutes to alert the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office of the escape. Juvenile Justice did not give any information on two of the escapees who were still on the run the next day until after local authorities provided their names and other details.
The release also said Blair did not properly conduct a perimeter check and gave false information during an internal investigation of the escape. Harris and Blair were put on suspension with pay after the escape.
All five youths were recaptured the same weekend, charged with criminal escape and sent to different youth detention facilities.
The release said Niles would continue to make unannounced visits to the Augusta YDC and other Juvenile Justice properties, something that his predecessor, Gale Buckner, started when she stepped in after Jade Holder, 19, was killed by another youth in his cell last year.
Shuler said more personnel changes could be on the way.
“The Augusta YDC escape incident is a prime example of why I place such importance on the enforcement of safety and security policies at the Department of Juvenile Justice,” Niles said in the release. “I have cautioned DJJ Staff in Augusta and throughout the state that I will continue to seek out safety and security laxes and continue to crack down on violators anywhere they’re found. More violations will mean more dismissals.”