Scope of Georgia Juvenile Justice abuse claim widens

ATLANTA — The number of unresolved sex abuse investigations at Georgia’s juvenile detention centers goes far beyond the 20 cases that led to the suspensions of 18 investigators and their supervisor, Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice Commissioner Avery Niles said Sunday.

 

An investigation into the unresolved cases led to the finding that 700 internal investigations over a year and a half were unresolved.

Of that number, Niles said 141 meet the Justice Department’s standard for sexual abuse or harassment by other juveniles or detention center staff.

“Youth safety is at stake, and we have pledged to maintain a sexually safe environment for all our residents,” Niles said in a statement. “That means taking immediate corrective actions to ensure all reports of sexual abuse and harassment are quickly and thoroughly investigated according to DJJ policy and state and federal law.”

The 18 investigators were initially suspended in June over unresolved inquiries that were supposed to have been completed within 45 days. Agency spokesman Jim Shuler has said some investigations were left unresolved for about a year.

Three corrections officers have been fired over substantiated claims of sexual abuse and will be prosecuted by outside law enforcement, Niles said.

All but one suspended investigator and supervisor were brought to the department’s central office Friday and will return to service, Niles said. He said all of the department’s investigative supervisors have also been reassigned. The one investigator who didn’t return to work took a voluntary retirement July 1.

Twelve of the initial 20 cases involving alleged staff-on-youth sexual abuse are still unresolved and have been referred to the Georgia Department of Corrections for independent follow-ups, Niles said.

The June suspensions came in the wake of a Justice Department report that listed four of the state’s detention centers – including Augusta’s Youth Development Campus – among the worst in the country in terms of sexual abuse of detainees.

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