State Juvenile Justice employees are underpaid, poorly trained and not held accountable for their conduct while the juveniles in their care have not received appropriate medical attention and incidents of violence have increased, according to the findings of the South Carolina Legislative Audit Council.
The Legislative Audit Council, which reviews state agencies and programs to identify ways to cut costs and improve performance, audited the S.C. Department of Juvenile Justice in 2017 and followed up in 2019 at the request of the General Assembly.
Their follow-up review, published Tuesday, found conditions at the state's secure juvenile facilities had deteriorated over that time.
The damning report found that staffing had dwindled and many workers lacked experience, and as a result incidents involving juveniles, including youth-on-youth violence and violence toward staff members, had nearly doubled. The report also found that> the agency had failed to correct deficiencies identified in a prior review process.
It also found that essential security staff were not being paid appropriately, supervisors were not evaluated often enough and employees who misbehaved were not held responsible.
"Our review of employee disciplinary actions found that DJJ is relying on officers with multiple disciplinary actions demonstrating a history of reckless or indifferent behavior towards juvenile safety," an audit summary states. "One employee in our sample had 10 disciplinary actions for failure to carry out job responsibilities, an offense which, under DJJ's discipline policy, should have resulted in termination after three disciplinary actions."
Meanwhile, juveniles under the care of DJJ have not received adequate medical care due to lack of staff or lack of transportation, resulting in delayed doctors visits and trips to the emergency rooms. Juveniles with mental health issues have not received daily medications, been offered group counseling or been provided transportation to appointments, the audit found.
The report also said workers had not been properly trained to deal with juveniles who have mental health diagnoses and that documentation of issues like missed appointments and treatment was sorely lacking.
In addition to security and training issues, the audit found DJJ had been late on payments to vendors more than a quarter of the time between July 2016 and May 2020.
"In our discussions with DJJ personnel, we found that several vendors, including those providing medical supplies, bedding supplies, and information technology services, have refused to provide services to DJJ until payments are received," the auditors wrote.
Juvenile Justice operates three regional evaluation centers, a pretrial juvenile detention facility and the Broad River Road complex, a long-term commitment facility in Columbia.
This article will be updated.