Monday's ribbon cutting ceremony marked the return of the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) to Milledgeville.
Renovation of the vacant Housing and Detention Unit Building (No. 14) at the former Bill E. Ireland Youth Development Campus (YDC) into a 30-bed Intensive Treatment Unit (ITU) is complete.
The Milledgeville ITU was specifically constructed to house only male offenders from other DJJ facilities across the state with an emphasis on increased professional staffing for counseling and treatment purposes. The ITU is scheduled to open in early 2015.
“I can't tell you how glad we are to have the state back in this facility,” Baldwin County Sheriff Bill Massee said. “There is a lot of good history here on this campus for Baldwin County.”
State Rep. Rusty Kidd is happy to re-welcome the DJJ to the 800 N. Glynn St. location. Sweeping DJJ budget cuts in fall 2009 previously shut down the YDC.
The new ITU was conceptualized after the department identified a need to offer more services to youth not benefiting from current juvenile programming.
Males that visit Milledgeville's facility will undergo an Evidence Based Treatment Program for Secure Residential Settings. Programs for the DJJ unit include group treatments addressing thinking errors, moral reasoning, emotional control, mutual helping/support, communication skills and basic life skills.
“I'm glad this program is starting here,” Kidd said Monday.
From the initial planning phase, DJJ was determined to ensure operations at the new Milledgeville ITU would meet high standards. Georgia juvenile justice administrators brought in a team of correctional staff members this fall to complete their training and launched special recruitment efforts to bring in the very best candidates to staff the remodeled facility.
Staff is trained to recognize the impact of trauma and to minimize the chances of re-traumatizing, utilizing Structure Psychotherapy for Adolescents Responding to Chronic Stress.
“Through the governor's efforts of juvenile justice reform, this is going to play a big part in trying to aid these young people to get back on the right path,” state Sen. Burt Jones said.
Judge Phil Spivey works the Juvenile Court in the Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit.
He remembers first hearing about a potential reopening at the old Ireland YDC from DJJ Commissioner Avery D. Niles.
“I'm really delighted being a judge who sees these youth, hears the facts of their cases and knows what they have done in our communities and the seriousness of the problem,” Spivey said. “I do believe there is a need for institutions for our youth.”
Spivey said the treatment plan offers something new to Georgia.
Niles mentioned the 30-bed facility has a unique scope and intent.
“Our kids are troubled and searching for hope,” Niles said. “This facility will provide for them the tools to be successful. We can be the game changer.”
Keynote speaker Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle said it's great to visit Milledgeville and Baldwin County again.
Cagle said the Juvenile Justice Reform Act that went into affect Jan. 1, 2014 was centered on opening pathways and second chances.
“It's $90,000 a year to house a youth in this facility. That's an enormous amount of money. We don't want to just focus on putting people behind those bars,” Cagle said. “We want to afford them the opportunity to really get back into a normal life. When we invest in our kids, I assure you we are investing in our future. Baldwin County and Milledgeville — you deserve the opportunity as a community to embrace this institution.”