Originally created 01/13/04

Inmate kicking charge gets YDC worker fired

A former Aiken County Sheriff's lieutenant who went to work at the Augusta Youth Development Campus was fired by the private vendor last week, accused of kicking a teenage inmate several times.

Juvenile Justice Department Spokeswoman Jaci Vickers said Robert Parsons was fired on the spot for being "overly zealous in a takedown procedure." She said the incident is still under investigation.

"If we have staff who are not providing the level of care to our clients that they should be afforded, we're supposed to take immediate corrective action," Ms. Vickers said. "In this case, it was firing the employee."

Brett Brannon, the chief executive officer of Unique Solutions, the mental health care provider that runs the Augusta Youth Development Campus, referred questions to Ms. Vickers.

Mr. Parsons was employed by the Aiken County Sheriff's Office for almost eight years, then resigned in April, according to Aiken County Sheriff's Lt. Michael Frank.

Unique Solutions took over the Augusta YDC in July amid allegations that state employees were exploiting boys in custody - selling them drugs and pornography, allowing assaults to happen in exchange for money and in one case having sexual contact with a boy.

The company's $5.5 million emergency contract ended Dec. 31, but it will operate the detention center until Feb. 16, when Sarasota, Fla.-based Youth Services International will assume control. Youth Services underbid Unique Solutions and another company for a five-year contract valued at roughly $7 million per year.

The YDC currently holds about 130 boys. Ms. Vickers said 50 of them will be moved to other YDCs during the next few days and likely won't return.

Youth Services will start with 80 boys with mental health needs, including 20 sex offenders. The number of boys will eventually reach 100, Ms. Vickers said.

She said relocating the boys had nothing to do with Unique Solutions' performance or the incident with Mr. Parsons. The 50 do not have the kinds of mental health needs that Youth Services will treat, and the department will try to put them in facilities closer to their home towns, Ms. Vickers said.

Reach Johnny Edwards at (706) 823-3225 or johnny.edwards@augustachronicle.com.


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