by: Richard Belcher Updated:
ATLANTA - State authorities announced Monday they are closing a juvenile detention facility where a federal survey turned up the highest rate of reported sexual assaults in the nation.
The federal report released in June singled out of Georgia youth prisons in Richmond, Sumter, Dodge and Paulding counties as among the worst in the country for sexual assaults reported anonymously by the detainees themselves.
The facility with the worst record was the Paulding Regional Youth Detention Center in Dallas, Ga., which houses detainees from Paulding and five surrounding counties.
In the report, 32.1 percent of inmates reported some kind of sexual victimization, 25.9 percent reported the acts were non-consensual and 31 percent reported sexual contact was with staff at the detention center.
By the end of December, Paulding RYDC will be closed.
"Does this have anything to do with the federal report about sexual abuses?" Belcher asked Mark Sexton, assistant commissioner of the Department of Juvenile Justice.
"No, this does not," Sexton said.
In response to the report about Paulding and two other detention centers, juvenile justice commissioner Avery Miles ordered a major review of the department's internal investigations unit. But the department never challenged the survey findings and says there's a simple reason for closing Paulding.
"We're closing it due to the reduced number of youth that are coming from that six county area," Sexton said.
The Paulding center is run by a private company called Youth Services International.
YSI has been the target of criticism and lawsuits in at least three other states where it manages youth detention facilities.
"Does this say anything about YSI?" Belcher asked Sexton.
"No. This is not intended to say anything (about) YSI. As a matter of fact, YSI also operates two additional facilities for us in the state of Georgia," Sexton said.
Sexton said some of the 45 youths now at Paulding will be transferred to the detention center in Americus.
The closure, he said, will save the state $6.4 million a year.
Sixty-eight people will lose their jobs, but Sexton said some of those will be given a chance to compete for jobs at other detention centers.