Department of Juvenile Justice officials said Tuesday that the total number of unfinished probes into reports of sexual misconduct at state facilities is likely higher than the 20 that prompted suspensions of 19 investigators and their supervisor.
In mid-June, 19 investigators and their supervisor were suspended in the wake of a U.S. Department of Justice report that listed four of the state’s detention centers among the worst in the country in terms of sexual abuse of detainees.
The results of the 2012 National Survey of Youth in Custody included four Georgia juvenile detention centers among a list of 13 with the highest rates of alleged sexual misconduct nationally.
Investigators who were suspended over unfinished cases were warned at least twice that they were not in compliance with department protocol, Department of Juvenile Justice Commissioner Avery Niles said in a statement.
An executive staffer warned investigators in May that their failure to close unfinished investigations at state youth detention centers was out of line with department policy, he said. Internal investigations are supposed to be concluded within 45 days and the unresolved cases were filed in 2012, officials have said.
When the investigators were initially warned, department executives were unaware that the number of unfinished cases included some that were linked to alleged sexual misconduct, Niles said.
“I assigned my Advisory Committee to review the Department of Justice survey and to compare the federal statistics with DJJ’s actual sexual misconduct cases,” Niles said in a statement. “That’s when the Committee discovered that all but one newly assigned DJJ investigator had at least one alleged sexual abuse case still open from 2012 based on DJJ policy.”
In a statement, Niles declined to speculate on exactly how many additional cases the committee could find, but said the number will likely be considerably higher than the 20 that prompted the suspensions and internal investigation.
Niles has asked the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the state Department of Corrections to conduct an independent audit of the agency.
The four Georgia facilities that saw high reports of alleged sexual abuse were the regional youth detention center in Paulding County; the Eastman Youth Development Campus in Dodge County; the Augusta YDC in Richmond County; and the Sumter YDC in Americus.
The Paulding County facility led the nation with 32.1 percent of youth inmates reporting last year that they were victimized sexually by staff or other juveniles. That was more than three times the national rate of 9.5 percent.