SCDJJ Director Freddie Pough resigns from agency

Eden Hendrick to Serve as SCDJJ Acting Director
Published: Sep. 21, 2021 at 10:14 AM EDT|Updated: Sep. 21, 2021 at 7:21 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Embattled Department of Juvenile Justice Director Freddie Pough is resigning.

Pough faced intense criticism from employees and lawmakers over the conditions for both staff and children at the department.

Governor Henry McMaster made the announcement Tuesday morning.

Pough served as director of the S.C. Department of Juvenile Justice for over four years.

“I’m grateful for Mr. Pough’s five years of leadership at the Department of Juvenile Justice and his passion for the work of rehabilitating the young people who come under the supervision of the agency,” said Gov. Henry McMaster. “We will immediately begin working to find the best possible person to lead the agency into the future.”

Eden Hendrick, who most recently served as Assistant General Counsel at the South Carolina Department of Administration, will serve as Acting Director of SCDJJ until a permanent director is nominated by Governor McMaster and confirmed by the South Carolina Senate.

The Department of Administration is currently auditing the DJJ’s human resources practices.

Hendrick, who began serving as a Senior Deputy Director at SCDJJ last week, has also served as an attorney with the S.C. Department of Social Services and led the Richland County Family Court Division in the Fifth Circuit Solicitor’s office from 2015 to May 2020, when she joined the Department of Administration.

Hendrick graduated with honors from the University of Georgia in 2002 prior to receiving a Juris Doctorate from the University of South Carolina School of Law in 2005.

To view a copy of Eden Hendrick’s resume in its entirety, click here.

Pough’s resignation comes after months of criticism for his department.

In April, an independent study of the department found it dangerously understaffed and undertrained. It reported a 42 percent jump in violent incidents from 2017.

In May, a subcommittee of lawmakers grilled Pough about the report. State Sen. Dick Harpootlian (D-Richland) asked Pough if he would resign. Pough declined.

RELATED STORY | State lawmakers call for changes in DJJ and its leadership

On June 2, Governor Henry McMaster’s office announced he instructed SLED and the Department of Administration to review DJJ policies and provide recommendations for improvement.

RELATED STORY | McMaster directs SLED, Department of Administration to review DJJ policies

On June 4, roughly 30 DJJ security staff and teachers walked out. They protested low pay, long hours, and dangerous conditions within the complex.

RELATED STORY | SC DJJ security staff, teachers walk off the job

On June 9, a subcommittee of state senators gave Pough a vote of no confidence.

RELATED STORY | State senators give DJJ leader a vote of no confidence

On June 29, the full South Carolina Senate also gave Pough a vote of no confidence.

On August 11, a WIS investigation into the aftermath of the walk-out showed sustained concerns about staffing and children living near human waste.

RELATED STORY | After walk-out, DJJ touting improvement efforts while some see worse situation

Pough’s official last day is October 15, but McMaster’s office told WIS Eden will take the reins immediately.

Sen. Katrina Shealy (R-Lexington) and Harpootlian spearheaded calls for Pough to step down.

Shealy called the news a surprise, but welcomed the opportunity for the department to move forward.

“I’m glad it’s happened, I think there’s another job out there for the director that he can do a job someplace else and be successful at it, I just don’t think this is the right job for him,” she said.

She said Hendrick will need to begin by rebuilding the department’s on-the-ground staff, which has faced turnover.

“It’s still not a safe place, so there’s still no guarantee that somebody’s not going to get hurt. I’m not saying just because the director is gone that everything’s saved, but what I’m saying is this will give them a chance to start rebuilding,” she said.

She went on to state: “the kids need to know that people care about them.”

Shealy said she expects Hendrick “will do a good job” but she’s a placeholder until the governor makes a nomination and the senate confirms the appointee.

“We’re going to make sure they’re the right person before we put anybody in that job,” she said.

Harpootlian said he was not familiar with Hendrick, but “she’s not Freddie Pough so she can’t be that bad.”

“It’s just gone on and on and on, while that was going on, some of the children of this state behind the wall were being abused physically and mentally, and the guards were put in danger. It’s just a lord of the flies’ situation out there. Hopefully his departure will begin us turning the page on this.”

Harpootlian held McMaster responsible for the situation and DJJ and said McMaster should have acted sooner on the issue.

McMaster’s office said Pough’s resignation was his own decision, and the governor has directed SLED and the DOA to reform DJJ policy.

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