Saturday, Oct. 20, 2012
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The escapes at the Augusta YDC came hours after 18-year-old Michael Everidge was sentenced for a deadly beating inside the facility's walls last year.
Now, as one investigation ends, another begins. Since last year, Everidge's mother has blamed the adults watching over the kids.
"Just like they know it, I know it, this place needs to be shut down," said Keiondra Everidge.
It's just starting to sink in for Everidge that her son will be 35 years old when he is out of prison.
"It's just the fact of hearing 17 years that just really crushed me," she said.
But, just as that news set in, she got this one, "I understand that these kids broke out, but what was the reason that they broke out? What's going on back there that these kids feel like they have to get away from there?" she asked.
Dawn Cartwright, sister of Michael, told News 12, "It's not even been a year yet since Jade died and Michael was charged with this charge and then you have this happen? I can see one kid ... but five?"
Everidge and her sister blame the guards. You'll remember that following the death last November, state officials made a clean sweep. They replaced the director with a team of three, Gov. Nathan Deal appointed a new state leader and more than a dozen employees were fired or suspended just at Augusta's YDC.
"If this is a safe environment and this is somewhere these kids want to rehabilitate, then why are they escaping?" Everidge said.
That is just the beginning of her questions. Until this day, she wonders why employees, reprimanded for everything from contraband to sexual relations, have not been criminally charged.
"What's really going on at Augusta YDC? What's really going on back there?" she asked.
Perhaps, we may never know. However, for a mother whose son is gone and another one just lost hers for years, one thing is certain: Something has to change.
"The state officials need to close this place down because if they don't, there will be another murder there," Everidge said.
What we do know that is changing is leadership. After announcing her retirement earlier this month, Department of Juvenile Justice Commissioner Gale Buckner will step down Nov. 1.
An interim commissioner takes over that day. Buckner says the date was always set in stone and she not giving up on the YDC.