Judges pray for old jail to be renovated into juvenile court and training center

Saturday, March 16, 2019
News 12 @ 11

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- For years, community leaders have pushed for the old jail on Walton Way to become a juvenile justice center. On Saturday morning, those leaders prayed on it, hoping the most recent efforts will come to fruition.

The Richmond County Juvenile Court System has been homeless for ten years, taking up home in different locations across the county. Judges say that has to change so that they can change the lives of the children they serve.

As the days go by, 401 Walton Way is wasting away. Put it it next to 400 Walton Way, the Richmond County Sheriff's Office, and it's a painful sight to see with lettering hanging from walls, rusted locks, and old furniture collecting dust inside.

But a group of judges, pastors, and community leaders see the building as a diamond in the rough.

"Those children are our future," said Judge James Blanchard. "Those children aren't going away."

Those pastors, judges, and community leaders banded together, praying on the project, even changing "Let's renovate now" outside the old jail.

"Our Juvenile Court System is homeless so help us, God." said Pastor Angela Harden.

Everyone at the rally hopes their prayers are not in vain.

"In this flock of 100 there are children doing great and wonderful things but then there's the one that requires our attention," said Judge Carl Brown.

Judge Brown is leading the effort, asking the Augusta Commission to move forward with plans to renovate the building into a juvenile court and training center.

"I saw young men and young women come into my program and then before I left there in 20 years I might see their child come into my program," said Judge Blanchard.

The goal is to transform children so they don't end up in trouble again. Last year, judges estimated it would cost $3 million to transform the building, but now it could cost more.

"It's not just a court," said Judge Douglas Flanagan. "It's a mentoring program and it's an education program."

But it's not about the money or the work the building needs, but the lives that could be changed between its walls. Developers and leaders are facing the Augusta Commission again on Tuesday. They need the greenlight there so the plans can move forward.