The states Department of Juvenile Justice held an executive session meeting Thursday in Macon to discuss 19 investigators who have been suspended with pay because they failed to finish internal investigations into allegations of sexual misconduct.
At a meeting of the state board at the Macon Youth Development Center, officials said they have called in the GBI and the states Department of Corrections to help close at least 20 investigations of either sexual abuse or sexual harassment involving incarcerated youths, said Jim Shuler, the departments communications director.
The investigation comes in the wake of a U.S. Department of Justice survey that provided national statistics for sexual misconduct in youth detention facilities. The survey says Georgia has some of the highest sexual abuse rates in the country. The state is one of four with an overall sexual victimization rate exceeding 15 percent, according to the survey.
Officials formed a special advisory committee in early June to compare that reports statistics to the number of cases that were reported in Georgia each year. The committee found that more than 20 cases were unfinished within the mandatory 45 days allowed by department policy.
In a statement earlier this month, Commissioner Avery D. Niles said the alleged failure of accountability wont be tolerated.
It is a disturbing breach of confidence and fundamentally unacceptable, he said. These investigators have a duty to protect our youth and employees and to uphold the most basic standards of professional behavior.
Shuler said the department has been working hard to make certain it is ready for the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act, or PREA, which goes into effect later this year.
Shuler said anonymous tip boxes have been set up at every youth detention facility, as well as an anonymous tip line, to allow anyone to report sexual harassment or abuse. Georgia is considered to have one of the most proactive youth education PREA programs in the nation.
The monthly meeting was held in Macon to allow new board members to familiarize themselves with the all-female youth detention center.
To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.