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January 31, 2013

State budget proposal includes money for YDC opening

MILLEDGEVILLE — Ga. Gov. Nathan Deal's 2014 fiscal year state budget report includes funding that could go towards a limited reopening at the Bill E. Ireland Youth Development Campus (YDC). Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) Commissioner Avery Niles referenced the Milledgeville project at state budget hearings on Jan. 23. 

Fund increases just over $4.7 million for the new Rockdale Regional Youth Detention Center and to open a new 30-bed YDC are included in Deal's juvenile justice proposal portion.

The DJJ program budget line items read “increase funds for operations and 77 positions for a 30-bed YDC opening” and “redirect $4,493,720 in existing bond proceeds to construct a 30-bed facility.”

DJJ spokesman Jim Shuler said the secure facility would be a Special Management Unit (SMU) helping the agency adequately address the most disruptive youth from other facilities. The projected opening date is sometime in the 2014 fiscal year. 

In his Jan. 23 speech to the Joint Appropriations Committee, Niles said the high-risk youth take bed space from less risky kids in facilities designed for short stays.

The youth that qualify for an SMU upset facility operators and consistently strain staffing resources, according to Niles' statements.

Renovation of the vacant Housing and Detention Unit Building (No. 14) at the Ireland campus came up last September, but the funding wasn't there. Past proposals were to convert the Ireland space for separate 20-bed high-max and 10-bed step-down units in an effort to deal with state juvenile overflow.

The building, No. 14 DU, is a 17,687 square foot unit previously shut down after sweeping DJJ budget cuts in fall 2009. The YDC employed over 300 people at one time prior to the shutdown.

Having the buildings capable of serving serious juvenile offender needs plays in Milledgeville's favor, but other state centers will likely push for the SMU as well.

Georgia currently utilizes seven YDC facilities, including six state-operated and one private facility. DJJ oversees nearly 12,000 youth in the community and almost 1,750 in custody.

Deal's budget has a long trimming and evaluation process in both chambers upcoming. Lawmakers have until the end of the session to pass a balanced budget.

The final edits have continued until the final day.

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