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Augusta YDC saw much upheaval during 2012

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EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the sixth installment of a 10-part series on the top stories of 2012.

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Jim Shuler, a spokesman for the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice, reads a press release and answers questions from the media gathered outside of the Augusta Youth Development Campus.  JON-MICHAEL SULLIVAN/STAFF
Jim Shuler, a spokesman for the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice, reads a press release and answers questions from the media gathered outside of the Augusta Youth Development Campus.

More than 13 months after one inmate beat another to death in his cell, the Augusta Youth Development Campus is far from being drama-free.

The facility made headlines almost monthly after 18-year-old Michael Everidge killed Jade Holder, 19, in a November 2011 fight that court testimony described as the result of a culture of violence.

Since the slaying, the state Department of Juvenile Justice has fired, moved or demoted more than a dozen employees, citing policy violations ranging from smuggling phones to inappropriate relationships with youths.

After Holder’s death, Gov. Nathan Deal pulled the department’s commissioner and appointed Gale Buckner, who made numerous unannounced visits that frequently ended in firings. She was up to 11 when she retired a year later to become a judge.

In October, Everidge was sentenced to 17 years in prison. Just hours after the gavel fell, five inmates escaped the facility, stole a car and led police on a two-day chase from Augusta to Atlanta.

A timeline of events showed the escape occurring at 8:40 p.m., but there was no record of the Richmond Coun­ty Sheriff’s Office being contacted, leaving Juvenile Justice spokesman Jim Shuler to guess that the call was made about 10:05. Sheriff’s dispatch records showed the call was made closer to 10:30.

The reason for the delay was never made public, but on Dec. 14 Shuler announced the firings of Junior Corrections Officer Dominique Harris and Corrections Sgt. Dorothy Blair over a “major security failure.”

Harris was in charge of the head count in the unit where the inmates were missing. Blair did not follow emergency protocol or conduct a proper perimeter check and gave false information during an investigation of the escape, a news release said.

The YDC has experienced a complete turnover among top personnel in the past 12 months. The director at the time of Holder’s death was dismissed and replaced by Sardis Police Chief Gary Jones on an interim basis. During his brief tenure, from the end of November 2011 until the beginning of March, many staff members were released as a result of Buckner’s visits.

In March, Buckner introduced Ronald Brawner, who had a 21-year career with the Georgia Department of Correc­tions. Brawner said that he understood the YDC was a troubled facility but that “anytime you take on a new position or a new job, you have to step up to the plate and understand challenges before you.”

An internal audit in August detailed numerous violations of department policy, a lack of qualified staffers, improper admission procedures and a general lack of oversight in several areas.

Brawner resigned Nov. 15 and his deputy, Melvin Womble, stepped in. A month later, he was suspended with pay after a fight among five youths went unreported to the department’s central office. A 17-year-old’s jaw was broken, but he was not transferred to a hospital for several days.

Buckner left the department in October and was replaced by Avery Niles, whom Deal praised as a “stalwart, dedicated and dependable” leader. Niles previously served as warden of the Hall County Correctional Institu­tion and is a 23-year veteran of the Hall County Sheriff’s Office.

Niles has promised to fix the issues at the facility, saying that the audit’s findings “will not be tolerated” and that he will continue with staff changes until he is satisfied the problems are resolved.

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OpenCurtain 12/27/12 - 02:33 pm
2013 will be a make or break year for the JDC campus

It is plain it cannot continue the way it is going.

While there have been many cries for a complete overhaul of the operations, before this can be done the JDD must understand where it is failing.

My personal opinion as a former RYDC & YDC staff member. (late 70's).

If they continue to remotely operate and manage the problem as Atlanta is currently doing. They will be as clueless as new Grad
student taking their 1st job in their chosen career field.

There will always be a major difference between by a Book written by some manual writer who has never faced the problem eye to eye, and a seasoned Staff member with 1st hand experience and a few lumps.

Run the operation for what it was build for,
A Jail or Prison.

We don't need to understand their personal problems, as much as we need to teach the young criminals there is a much harder negative reward system for bad behavior, called Society.

In short they are past the understanding point. They have arrived at the punishment point for their actions.

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