3 employees resign after DJJ escape

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Three employees resigned from the S.C. Department of Juvenile Justice following an escape in June.

Information WIS received from a Freedom of Information Act request shows that DJJ staff realized the juvenile inmate was missing at 10:55 p.m. June 21 when the third-shift staff came in to work. After second-shift and third-shift staff searched for the male inmate for 30 minutes and not finding him, they reported him as an escapee at 11:35 p.m.

Richland County Sheriff's deputies found the escapee when they responded to a break-in at clothing store Trendz on Broad River Road in Columbia. The alarm company notified police at about 12:30 a.m. June 22. The juvenile was returned to DJJ custody at 1:30 a.m., according to information from DJJ.

A Trendz employee told WIS that the damage to the storefront affected business and took a week to repair.

Sgt. Gary Ridges and juvenile correction officers Ashley Goodwin and Steven Bright resigned during the process to terminate them following the escape, DJJ spokeswoman Loretta Neal said. Their resignations came after DJJ administration said the three "failed to carry out their job duties as set forth in policy and as they are required and trained to do, which contributed to this young man escaping from the custody of the Department," Neal said.

These three employees are in addition to three others currently suspended pending an investigation after an inmate committed suicide at a DJJ facility in July. SLED and the Inspector General are investigating that case.

"I think one bad event happened and another happened right after it," said Margaret Baker, DJJ director. "We are beginning to look at various ways we can change things. Nothing that we particularly did wrong. It's just people did not follow instructions. What we're doing now is looking at our training. Looking at all our action plans and corrective action plans that we can take."

According to DJJ policy, employees must supervise juveniles using sight or sound at all times. Officers also cannot leave their assigned posts until relieved by another officer.

WIS will continue to follow this story and will update it as information becomes available.

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