Department of Juvenile Justice whistleblower calls out post-riot policy choices

Published: Aug. 22, 2023 at 7:39 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - A South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) whistleblower is raising the alarm over an indefinite pause in mental health and rehabilitation resources for a group of juveniles at the Broad River Road Complex (BRRC).

The whistleblower is a current DJJ employee and provided WIS an email sent by BRRC Facility Administrator Quiotis Fletcher on Friday.

Fletcher announced an indefinite pause on psychiatric clinics for the juveniles and monthly visits Intensive Supervision Officers (designed to help with the transition into the community).

Additionally, she announced the juveniles will receive daily educational packets. Youth traditionally attend the Birchwood School on the BRRC campus.

The employee said the youth aren’t getting their rehabilitation. WIS is withholding the name of employee over employment concerns.

“The youth will not have any way to express their emotions. They won’t have anybody to talk to. They won’t have a feeling that there’s anybody that cares about them. That there’s anybody that’s on their side,” they said.

DJJ spokesperson Michelle Foster sent WIS an email stating an ending date on the policies has not been established, but the decisions were made for safety and security.

It’s unclear how many youth are impacted, but they all stay at the Cypress dorm.

Juveniles damaged the dorm on Thursday, and multiple juveniles were able to escape the building.

The employee raised concerns the policies are isolating the juveniles, undermining their mental health. Addressing excessive isolation was a key issue in the DJJ’s agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice announced last year.

“There have been things happening for the last year and a half and I keep saying nope, let somebody else do it. But when I saw this with kids, this is not good for them. They do not need to be locked up like animals. They cut them off from everybody to keep them in the rooms like they are, with no psych clinic, not getting anything they need, supposedly to reset their behavior?” the employee said.

Wendy Leach was chosen by both the DJJ and DOJ to ensure DJJ’s compliance with the agreement and was CC’d on Fletcher’s email.

Foster has not yet responded to WIS’s emails about the juvenile’s daily routines.

The DJJ is a cabinet agency which answers to Governor Henry McMaster. McMasters’s spokesperson Brandon Charochak sent a statement affirming the governor’s support for DJJ Director Eden Hendrick and her decision making.

Fletcher’s full email reads:

Until further notice, the only Security and Operations, RRT, Maintenance, Public Safety and Medical staff are allowed on the pods in Cypress. There will be no psych clinic for youth in Cypress. The on-call clinician may assess suicidal ideations, with the appropriate security precautions. No more than one you will be allowed out their room at one time. Education will provide daily packets for Cypress youth to the supervisor on duty to distribute. I understand some might disagree with this course of action, but this is necessary to reset the youth’s behavior. I appreciate everyone’s patience as the youth adjust to having doors in their living areas. There will be normal operations for the youth at the T-Home, Laurel and Myrtle. Any ISO visits for Cypress youth must be postponed.

Education, programs (including Creditable Messengers) and clinical supervisors shall coordinate with JDC and MEC FAs and/or AFA to disperse their staff to assist the other Midlands facilities when they are not providing services to the T-Home, Laurel and Myrtle. This is not free time.

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