Dozens of guards, teachers and other employees at the scandal-ravaged South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice (SCDJJ) walked off their jobs early Friday morning in protest of perpetual mismanagement of this agency under its current director Freddie Pough.
The protest walkout began at around 7:00 a.m. EDT at the agency’s facility on Broad River Road just north of Columbia, S.C., sources familiar with the situation told me.
What prompted the protest? Earlier this week, my news outlet reported that at least “five front-line employees” at SCDJJ were forced to work 24-hour shifts – including two who were forced to work 33 hours consecutively, according to agency sources.
That’s right … 33 hours.
One of those two employees walked off the job last week … a move which (unlike other government employee walkouts) seems understandable given the circumstances.
Certainly, I do not condone protest walkouts … but it is safe to say these front-line SCDJJ employees have been pushed to their breaking points.
Several local television stations were sending crews to cover the walkout – including WLTX TV-19 (CBS – Columbia, S.C.), which is reportedly preparing a major exposé on this embattled bureaucracy.
The SCDJJ walkout comes a little over a week after S.C. governor Henry McMaster verbally harangued a pair of state senators who have been attempting to bring some long-overdue accountability to this catastrophically mismanaged agency. It also comes as agents of the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) confirmed that they were investigating allegations of criminal activity at SCDJJ. Several senators recently referred these allegations to S.C. attorney general Alan Wilson’s office – who sent them to SLED for investigation.
These referrals stemmed from a damning report on SCDJJ prepared by the S.C. Legislative Audit Council (SCLAC) earlier this year which cited alleged misappropriation of funds and the failure of agency leadership to report violent incidents as required by law.
The SCLAC audit was first reported by our news editor, Mandy Matney. Last month, Matney filed an exclusive report on a 16-year-old girl at a SCDJJ who attempted suicide earlier this year in an effort to draw attention to the problems at the agency. Her report was cited by senators as one example of Pough’s myriad reporting failures.
Pough – who has prioritized bureaucratic hires at the expense of front-line staff – was hand-picked by McMaster to fix this troubled agency in 2017, when a similarly scathing audit forced the resignation of former governor Nikki Haley’s SCDJJ director.
Astoundingly, the agency is in worse shape now than it was then … which is exactly what I wrote last spring.
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According to the SCLAC report, SCDJJ has lost over 32 percent of its security staff since 2017 – while violence has increased by 42 percent at its facilities over the same time frame.
“SCDJJ officials have created a disastrous and exceedingly dangerous cycle within (their) facilities,” Matney reported in response to the audit. “They aren’t spending enough money on programs to keep incarcerated teenagers occupied and out of trouble, which has sparked an increase of violence. Adding fuel to the flames, the agency has failed to offer essential employees competitive wages, so its security staff members are leaving in droves.”
Despite these failures, McMaster has continued to support Pough – routing additional federal dollars to his agency even though senators have made it clear they do not trust him to appropriate the money wisely. Meanwhile, SCDJJ has tried to spin the report as being full of inaccuracies and exaggerations.
UPDATE: Mainstream media confirming the walkout …
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children. And yes, he has LOTS of hats (including that Magnum P.I.-style Detroit Tigers’ road lid pictured above).
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