Report: SC juvenile jail not prepared to respond to riots, not preventing rapes

The state's Legislative Audit Council says the S.C. Department of Juvenile Justice needs to better train its COs and perhaps disband its "ineffective and unnecessary" police force

By Sarah Ellis
The State (Columbia, S.C.)

COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina's juvenile jail is unprepared to respond to riots, has poorly trained correctional officers and ineffective police and does not comply with standards meant to prevent rape, a new state report says.

In a harshly critical report released Thursday, the state's Legislative Audit Council says the S.C. Department of Juvenile Justice needs to better train its correctional officers and perhaps disband its "ineffective and unnecessary" police force.

Fewer than a third of DJJ correctional officers -- 23 out of 81 -- have been certified by the S.C. Criminal Justice Acadamy, and DJJ's training curriculum is not approved by the state justice academy, the report says.

DJJ also could not prove to committee members that counselors at wilderness camps have the proper credentials required by state law, the report says.

"DJJ's security policies and procedures are outdated and need to be revised," the report says. Additionally, "many employees doe not feel that recent changes have markedly increased the safety and security at the Broad River Road Complex."

A Feb. 26 riot at the Broad River Road facility exposed gaping holes in DJJ's security at the time, including having no police chief, gang intervention specialist or rapid-response emergency team on staff at the time.

Legislative investigators launched a review of DJJ after concerns were raised about safety and financial issues at the agency and whether DJJ is meeting its mission for juveniles in its custody. Thursday's report details the findings of the investigation.

The LAC considers this an abbreviated report. It says DJJ could not provide much of the information it was asked for, including statistics on juvenile escapes.

In addition to poorly trained officers, DJJ does not comply with the Federal Prison Rape Elimination Act and does not have an adequate plan to become compliant, the report says.

DJJ also "could not explain or document its methodology" behind its $4.3 million request for funding from the state government to become compliant with the rape elimination act, according to the report.

Further, the report says that DJJ case managers do not meet standards for supervising juveniles they are responsible for.

DJJ also does not take full advantage of video conferencing during parole hearings to reduce security risks and costs that come with transporting juveniles to and from hearings.
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