Department of Juvenile Justice commissioner retires after less than 1 year

Department of Juvenile Justice Commissioner Gale Buckner will leave next month after less than a year in the post. She will become a chief magistrate judge.

Appointed to help address problems at the Geor­gia Department of Juvenile Jus­tice after the death of a teen at an Augusta youth deten­tion facility, Com­mis­sion­er Gale Buckner will retire from her post next month after
less than a year on the job.

Buckner was named commissioner by Gov. Nathan Deal
after the death of 19-year-old Jade Holder in his cell at the Augusta Youth De­velop­ment Campus. Then-Com­missioner Amy Howell was moved into a role as general counsel at the Georgia Department of Be­havioral Health and De­vel­op­mental Disabilities.

Buckner, who was serving on the state Board of Pardons and Paroles, took over the position Nov. 9, the day after Holder’s death.

Buckner said she was already set to retire when appointed commissioner. A news release did not say whether Howell would step back in.

Buckner’s mission was to work with the department’s leadership team at a time when the agency was in crisis mode because of safety and security deficiencies, the release said. Since Holder’s death, nine employees have been fired from the Augusta YDC, including Augusta Director John Brady and several corrections officers. One employee resigned and two others were demoted. Buckner hired a new director and two assistant directors in March.

She made unannounced visits to all YDC campuses in Georgia in an effort to crack down on policy violations.

“I have stayed with DJJ until that crisis was corrected, and I am satisfied the agency is operating on a stable path,” Buckner said in the release.

Buckner will become chief magistrate judge in Mur­ray Coun­ty, where she began her law enforcement career at the Chatsworth Po­lice De­partment in 1978, the release said.

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