Six employees, including the director and assistant director of the Augusta Youth Development Campus, were disciplined Friday and security improvements were ordered after the escape of five inmates last weekend.
Department of Juvenile Justice spokesman Jim Shuler announced the personnel changes and security improvements ordered during the investigation into the escape, including the need to ensure attempts to contact local law enforcement are structured and documented accurately. He did not take questions.
Director Ronald Brawner and Assistant Director Melvin Womble, who were hired in March, were placed on a one-day disciplinary suspension with pay to give them the opportunity to decide whether they would seek other employment. Both chose to resume their positions full time Monday with the suspension note in their files, authorities said. They will also be on probation with the department.
Juvenile corrections Capt. Ricky Smiley, the highest-ranking uniformed officer with responsibility over inmates, accepted a demotion to juvenile correctional lieutenant and a pay reduction.
The statement said Brawner, Womble and Smiley received documents that read, “As a result of the escape, DJJ failed to protect the community, which is part of the agency’s mission.”
According to a timeline released by Juvenile Justice last weekend, it took at least an hour and 20 minutes to begin an outside search or to inform the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office after a staff member spotted the escaped inmates walking on a roadside and called the facility.
The time that the facility contacted the sheriff’s office was not clear. Juvenile Justice said it thought it was around 10:05 p.m., but it could not confirm the exact time because it was not documented properly. Dispatch said it received the call closer to 10:30.
During the preliminary investigation, some security improvements have been ordered, the department said, including restructuring the process for contacting local law enforcement.
Other changes included ensuring inmates’ movement and population counts are structured and perimeter checks are conducted according to policy.
Also named in the statement were juvenile corrections officers Dominique Harris and Marc Johnson, who were suspended with pay and placed on administrative leave over the “improper population count in the unit where the escape originated,” according to the statement.
Corrections Sgt. Dorothy Blair was suspended with pay and placed on administrative leave for “failure to perform emergency procedural duties as the shift officer on duty during the time of the escape,” the statement said.
The inmates escaped around 8:40 p.m. Oct 19, according to the timeline. A few hours later, they stole a car on Tobacco Road and led police on a chase. The car was abandoned and three youths were caught immediately. Two others fled.
One was caught quickly by the Department of Corrections canine team. Wayne Johnson, 18, remained at large for nearly two days.
Johnson was booked into the Richmond County jail on charges of escape and theft by receiving, along with the other escapee charged as an adult, 17-year-old Kendrick Johnson. They were denied bond Monday.
The three others, one age 16 and two 15, were separated and taken to other Juvenile Justice facilities.
As of Wednesday, the YDC was no longer under lockdown and “several safety upgrades were being made on campus to address security deficiencies discovered as the joint DJJ (and Georgia Bureau of Investigation) investigation continues,” the statement said.