DJJ commissioner calls number of 'deficiencies' at YDC revealed in audit 'unacceptable'

Richmond County YDC
Jade Holder, 19, died after being attacked in the Augusta Youth Development Campus. (WRDW-TV / Nov. 9, 2011)
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Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- A recent internal report of the Augusta Youth Development campus identified a number of "deficiencies" that need to be corrected by the staff.

This audit, conducted by the Department of Juvenile Justice Office of Continuous Improvement, was completed before five of the inmates escaped in October. Since then, all of the inmates have been taken back into custody and are facing additional charges. Click here to see News 12's coverage of the escape.

Newly-appointed DJJ Commissioner Avery Niles called the audit "unacceptable" and said changes need to be made.

“As a result of the escape, DJJ failed to protect the community," he said in a news release. "Audit reports like this compromise our agency integrity.”

Here is the list of the security improvements that the audit says needs to happen at the YDC:
- Ensure detainee movement and population counts are conducted properly
- Ensure dorms are managed in a manner which prevents safety and security issues
- Ensure staff frequently practice emergency drills in preparation for real crises
- Ensure perimeter checks are conducted as outlined in policy
- Ensure all staff members are familiar with the escape prevention plan, and
- Ensure the emergency notification process for local law enforcement is structured to accurately reflect when notification times or attempted contacts are made to the Sheriff’s Department

Currently, the search is on for a full-time director at the YDC. Niles says he plans to fill the position by mid-December.

The position was most recently filled by Ronald Brawner, who announced his resignation on Oct. 29. Brawner was suspended after the inmate escape. A personnel file reveals "significant problems with his inadequate supervision." Director of Security Melvin Womble is now the acting director.

The DJJ says perimeter safety measures have been put into place and state-of-the-art stadium lighting will soon be fully functional at the YDC.

But just because some changes have been made doesn't mean there aren't additional ones coming in the horizon. Niles says there could be additional staffing changes as the investigation into the escape continues.

While the spotlight was most recently on the YDC after the inmate escape, the YDC has had problems since 2011 when 19-year-old inmate Jade Holder was fatally assaulted. That death prompted an investigation by News 12 into the facility and the DJJ made some staffing changes after multiple allegations of corruption among employees at the facility. Click here to see News 12's coverage.