• Mackenzie Dekle

Georgia's youth jails majorly understaffed

According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, six out of seven of the state's long-term juvenile centers have experienced an increased shortage of correction officers in the past year. Officers at detention centers usually work over their 12-hour shifts due to lack of officers.

At Eastman YDC in Macon, the average weekly security staffing is ten percent lower in 2018 compared to 2017. The YDC operated with only 43 percent of their officers in February. In March, the YDC in Augusta operated with 44 percent of its officers for a week.

According to a written statement wrote by DJJ officials, Georgia's economy has made it a struggle to keep correction officers. The statement says, “DJJ remains committed to our employees and will continue to seek qualified candidates who are willing to work with the youth population that we serve."

Experts say the staff shortages risk the children's safety and rehabilitation. The Southern Center for Human Rights senior attorney, Atteeyah Hollie, says the children in the YDC are less safe: “They are less able to complete their sentences in a rehabilitative manner when there aren’t guards to protect them."

The staffing problem may harm the children's rehabilitation, especially in the case of sex offenders. Most child sex offenders are put into short-term rehabilitation centers where they don't offer sex offender treatment. Rehabilitation centers are required by a court for release.

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According to Melissa Carter, the executive director of Barton Child Law and Policy Center, "A child may be forced to stay in detention up to a year longer than than his original sentence because it takes so long to be transferred to long-term facilities where sex offender treatment is available."