Originally created 09/24/98

Department creates plan to address shortcomings



DAHLONEGA, Ga. -- The state Department of Juvenile Justice should be able to get $18 million from the Office of Planning and Budget by meeting its Oct. 15 deadline for overhaul plans, Commissioner Gene Walker said.

At the monthly meeting of the department's board of directors Tuesday, Mr. Walker said significant progress has been made in developing a plan to address shortcomings cited in a critical report issued this year by federal officials, who threatened a takeover of the system.

"I am confident that we will meet and exceed expectations," said Mr. Walker, who assured the board that the deadline will be met.

Mr. Walker said the budget office is holding the funds until deadlines for the overhaul plans are met. The money would be used to continue developing and implementing the plan.

The plans must be submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice, which investigated the state juvenile system after hearing of several violations.

The yearlong investigation cited areas such as overcrowding, lack of training for staff members, abuse of inmates, poor medical care and mental health treatment and inadequate educational facilities.

State officials agreed in March to spend $65 million to upgrade the system and signed a memorandum of agreement with Justice Department officials to make specific changes outlined in the agency's investigation.

The state is expected to have in writing by Oct. 15 plans for improving 31 of 44 specific areas noted in the memorandum of agreement. They will be submitted to a federal monitor for consideration.

Within the last month the Juvenile Justice Department has hired four people to oversee education, mental health, quality assurance and investigations as required by the agreement, Mr. Walker said.