Crime & Courts

Incident Reported At South Carolina Juvenile Justice Facility

Agency, law enforcement confirm incident late Thursday evening …

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Officials at the South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice (SCDJJ) confirmed Friday morning that an incident took place last night at the agency’s main facility – which is part of the Broad River Road Complex (BRCC) just northwest of downtown Columbia, S.C.

According to a statement released by SCDJJ communications and public information director Michelle Foster, shortly after 9:00 p.m. EST on Thursday (August 17, 2023), the agency contacted the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) “for assistance with a disturbance in a housing unit.”

“Approximately seventeen youth caused damage to property within the building,” Foster’s statement noted. “No staff were injured. Two youths were transported to the hospital and returned within hour.”

Sources familiar with the incident indicated juvenile detainees set fires to multiple “outbuildings,” however SCDJJ officials downplayed those reports. According to them, a pair of small batteries were burned inside one of the pods after juvenile inmates “rubbed them together which created a spark.”

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An SCDJJ sign adorns one of the gates to its main facility (Dylan Nolan/ FITSNews)

SCDJJ – with assistance from SLED – was eventually able to “end the disturbance” and secure the youthful offenders “back within their housing unit,” according to the statement.

SLED public information director Renée Wunderlich confirmed Friday morning its agents were “requested by (SCDJJ) late Thursday evening to respond to a disturbance” at the Broad River Road facility.

“(SCDJJ) has been significantly understaffed for years,” the consultant told us. “The overcrowding really started about 12-18 months ago when COVID started declining. The JDC was designed to house 72 youths for up to 90 days. Instead, we are housing 105-120 for much longer periods of time.”

SCDJJ was an unmitigated disaster for years under its prior director, Freddie Pough. Pough was hand-picked by governor Henry McMaster in 2017 to turn this troubled agency around. Instead, he accelerated its collapse – leaving juvenile inmates effectively in charge of its main facility.

Pough resigned as SCDJJ director in September 2021 – ten days after I lambasted SCDJJ for its culture of secrecy related to the rising violence “behind the fence.”

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The agency has made some progress in recent years under new director Eden Hendrick, however as our Mark Powell noted in a recent post Hendrick and her staff are still “fighting an uphill battle.”

As this news outlet noted in its previous coverage, SCDJJ entered 2022 with a 22-to-1 inmate-to-guard ratio – nearly three times the recommended 8-to-1 ratio. Agency leaders have been consistently unable to lower this ratio because ongoing efforts to recruit and hire new guards have been unsuccessful – even with SCDJJ offering $10,000 hiring bonuses to prospective recruits.

Both state and federal authorities have warned SCDJJ that it had created an environment which “seriously harms youth or places them at substantial risk of serious harm from other youth.”

Again, Hendrick deserves credit for addressing many of these issues – and reducing violence behind bars – but problems clearly still remain.

As we have for years, count on this news outlet to keep our audience up to speed on the latest developments behind the walls at SCDJJ.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR ...

Will Folks (Brett Flashnick)

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.

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5 comments

Avatar photo
VERITAS Top fan August 18, 2023 at 10:31 pm

No one should equate “youth” or “youthful” with criminals under the age of 21. Just sayin’.

Reply
Yo Momma Top fan August 18, 2023 at 11:24 pm

Until these guards are able to given more authority rights – who is going to want to do this job ? The guards can’t even PROTECT themselves.

Reply
Marianne Osentoski Top fan August 19, 2023 at 6:20 pm

How about this…until you pay those workers a living wage you will be understaffed. There have been issues at this facility for over 30 yrs, probably longer

Reply
Genny August 22, 2023 at 2:56 pm

Freddie Pough and his GR Shaquantia McDaniels were an unmitigated disaster and scandalous in their personal behavior but the fault falls squarely on the governor’s shoulders and the Department of Administration for sacrificing and slandering numerous loyal DJJ employees before FINALLY giving FraQuantia the boot. Eden Hendricks, a lackey of the DofA was put in to babysit and has no clue how to run a juvenile system. Instead she’s brought in more attorney lackeys (including neighbors) and recycled legitimate ideas and programs that were either blocked by Pough or refused funding by the General Assembly year after year. They aren’t NEW! And since when do we call fires and riots disturbances? When SLED “assists” they roll up in there like a SWAT team. The governor’s office is Hell bent on watering down the blow ups…and delaying these reports of riot and assault to prop up Hendricks while the GA throws millions at her to fix problems She is NOT qualified to address. But by golly lets rally behind Henry’s picks and give them more raises….

Reply
Genny August 22, 2023 at 3:42 pm

GF, that is…

Reply

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