UPDATE: DJJ announces employee suspensions after YDC inmate escape

The DJJ held a news conference Friday afternoon. (WRDW-TV / Oct. 26, 2012)
The DJJ held a news conference Friday afternoon. (WRDW-TV / Oct. 26, 2012)
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Friday, Oct. 26, 2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The Department of Juvenile Justice held a special news conference Friday to announce the suspensions of several employees after five inmates escaped from the YDC last week.

The suspended employees include the director, assistant director and shift supervisor of the Augusta Youth Development Campus.

Augusta YDC Director Ronald Brawner and Assistant Director Melvin Womble have been placed on disciplinary suspension followed by departmental probation.

The shift supervisor, Sgt. Dorothy Blair, has been suspended with pay and put on administrative leave. She is accused of "failure to perform emergency procedural duties as the shift officer on duty at the time of the escape."

Two officers, Dominique Harris and Marc Johnson, have been suspended with pay. They are being investigated in connection to the "improper population count" where the escape started.

Cpt. Ricky Smiley has accepted voluntary demotion to lieutenant and a reduction in pay with his connection to the incident.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is helping the DJJ to see if any employees were involved in criminal activity connected to the escape.

It all started Oct. 19 when five inmates escaped from the YDC, allegedly stole a car and led police on a manhunt. All five inmates are now back in custody.

After an investigation looking into the escape, DJJ Commissioner Gale Buckner said there were several policy violations that not only failed to prevent the escape but also to properly react to it.

In a news release, the DJJ listed the security improvements that will be taking place:

  • Ensure detainee movement and population counts are properly conducted.
  • 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 Office.

“We will not tolerate policy violations that breach the security of the Augusta YDC, compromise the safety of the youth we serve, the integrity of this agency or the safety of the public,” said Buckner in a news release. “We have made many personnel changes at Augusta YDC during my term, and it’s not over yet."

Buckner announced she was stepping down from her position in early October. She is being replaced by Interim Commissioner Avery Niles, effective Nov. 1. Read more here.

The YDC was taken off lockdown on Wednesday and the DJJ says "several safety upgrades were being made on campus to address security deficiencies discovered as the joint DJJ-GBI investigation continues."

To see News 12's coverage on the escape from the YDC, click here.

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