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Audit: Georgia juvenile justice should improve data collection, analysis

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(The Center Square) — The Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice should improve its data collection and analysis and increase its management oversight.

Those are among the findings of a new audit from the Georgia Department of Audits & Accounts.

“The lack of complete and accurate information hinders DJJ management’s ability to adequately monitor how facilities—and the agency overall—are preventing and responding to incidences,” the audit found.

“Specifically, DJJ should centrally track grievance data and implement controls to ensure isolation data and disciplinary data are complete and accurate,” it found. “DJJ management should routinely review the data to identify potential problems, such as overuse of isolation or inconsistent youth sanctioning.”

Established in 1992, DJJ operates 25 secure facilities across Georgia — 19 short-term regional youth detention centers and six long-term youth development centers.

In fiscal 2022, the department averaged 969 youths per day in secure facilities with nearly 1,800 beds. That same year, secure facilities represented $229 million — roughly two-thirds — of the agency’s expenditures of $335 million.

“DJJ should also improve oversight of the employee discipline process to ensure appropriate action is always taken when allegations are substantiated,” the audit added. “Lastly, DJJ should conduct facility audits more frequently and hold facilities accountable for addressing internal audit findings.”

In a response included in the audit, DJJ officials said that in March 2023, the agency implemented a “robust and thorough audit tool” for regional administrators to conduct monthly site visits.

“DJJ plans to establish a digital youth grievance process and is currently exploring software solutions,” the agency noted. “In addition, DJJ plans to clarify its policy and process to address the concerns raised.”

The agency “has developed a draft grievance form to better document the process including all levels of appeal,” it said in its response. “Once revisions are finalized, DJJ plans to develop and implement more formalized staff training on the updated grievance process.”

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