An 87-page report details numerous violations of department policy, a lack of qualified staff, improper admission procedures and a general lack of oversight in several areas.
The document notes that in an interview with then-Director Ronald Brawner two months before the October escapes, he had conflicting information from that of his staff. He also failed to enforce proper documentation throughout the facility, including record keeping and visitor log books, and did not hire someone to organize an emergency plan.
Juvenile Justice released a statement Thursday from new Commissioner Avery Niles stating that before the escape the department had told the Augusta YDC managers and staff to “implement and oversee specific details and improvements needed to correct existing problems, strengthen safety and security practices and to ensure the operation of a sound facility.”
Yet at least some of the issues were not fixed immediately, including a requirement that the facility maintain cooperative agreements with local agencies, including police, fire and EMS. None of those agreements were in place at the time of the audit or during the escape two months after the Aug. 28-30 evaluation was completed. It took YDC officials at least one hour and 20 minutes to alert local authorities of the missing inmates, according to a department timeline released after the escape.
Brawner resigned a few days later.
ON OCT. 19, five YDC inmates escaped the facility and stole a car. It was two days before they were all recaptured.
In the audit, the section referencing escape prevention plans contained the only redactions in the document. The audit states: “The plan is located (redacted) but not the local operating procedures book. The facility’s Escape Prevention Plan does not (redacted).”
When asked in the audit about regular inspections for safety and security of the outside recreation area, Brawner said the area was not used. However, interviews with his staff revealed that the recreation supervisor allowed some youths to use the area. The auditor reported finding debris in the area during a safety inspection.
The auditor concluded that the facility was unsafe because of construction and that the number of uncertified security staff was excessive.
“Even though there has been an influx of new hires, until they are properly trained, it will be difficult to manage this population of youth effectively and efficiently,” the audit stated.
The audit said uncertified staff outnumbered those certified, and it found instances where uncertified staff were supervising inmates, another department violation.
The auditor found that staff were not checking regularly to make sure video cameras and monitoring systems were in working order.
THE SAME DAY of the escape, 18-year-old Michael Everidge was sentenced to 17 years in jail for the 2011 beating death of 19-year-old Jade Holder in his YDC cell.
Marlon McCreary, the guard responsible for allowing the inmates to wander Unit 43, where the fatal fight happened, was fired Nov. 10, 2011, for neglecting to lock the doors.
The fallout included the removal of 11 employees, including the director, for multiple violations including inappropriate sexual relationships involving staff and inmates.
Gale Buckner, then the department’s commissioner, said she made unannounced visits to the facility in an effort to flush out problems, yet in the audit almost one year later, the YDC’s designated grievance officer said there had been no training and the officer was not aware they were supposed to fill out reports on incidents involving staff.
The audit revealed that eight of the 113 youth grievances found by the auditor were reported incidences of youth bullying, harassment by youth and staff, or alleged staff misconduct. No special incident reports were completed, so none of the incidents were investigated.
The auditor noted an incident caught on security video July 28, when one youth was allowed “unacceptable levels of physical contact with one female visitor.” The youth was supervised during the visit by a part-time worker who was not certified, and interviews with staff revealed this had happened before.
During an interview with Brawner, it was discovered that a required debriefing conversation with youths that is supposed to be conducted and documented after certain incidents was not being done consistently or in the required time span. Twelve of 63 inmates who submitted a request to see a counselor did not see one within the required 72 hours.
Three of the four youths in a program for sexually abusive inmates were not receiving the required counseling, the audit said.
Under suicide prevention, the auditor noted, “Although this report does not capture this issue, it is important to note that while one youth was on one-to-one observation, he was able to self harm with items/objects on three different occasions.”
THE JUVENILE JUSTICE statement Thursday said the department had already given instructions before the audit’s release that safety and security deficiencies described in it would be investigated.
Niles plans to have a new director in place by mid-December, the release said, replacing acting Director Melvin Womble, who was Brawner’s assistant director. Niles said the new director, “will have full authority to oversee, implement and direct all actions necessary to get this facility in line with DJJ standards and policy. Escapes and poor performance audits will not be tolerated.”