One from the Recent Archives: Southern Journal Article with First Lady Sandra Deal

Last year, the Department of Juvenile Justice was proud to partner with Georgia First Lady Sandra Deal for a series of projects with the Georgia Children's Cabinet. One such project of the Georgia Children's Cabinet was the Writers' Initiative where students from the Georgia Preparatory Academy submitted samples of their writing as part of a statewide contest. J. Williams was named the inaugural winner after submitting an original poem for the contest. Below are exerpts from the article that was published in Southern Journal Magazine which included the original poem as well as an interview of Commissioner Niles by the award-winning student. To read the entire article, click here....


(Georgia Preparatory Academy -Atlanta YDC)

My church is my room, some say it's just five by nine.
Although it's ina building that's gloomy, I still say it's mine.
My church is not very nice to see, for it's also my temporary home,
that's been assigned just to me.
My church is my room, they tell me I'll be living here for a year.
There is rarely Godly preaching, but I know my Lord is near.
My church is my room, and when I'm there, I'm all alone.
In my church I shed the tears, it's to myself I preach.
I know if my tongue should go wrong, His truth is within my reach.
My church is my room, my prayer a silent word, though no one is
near to listen, I know my prayer is heard.
My church is my room, where no one else is allowed, but it's
here I find a sense of peace and comfort and I'm not ashamed to
cry aloud.
My church is my room, where I admit all of my wrong, which helps
to make my spirit strong.
My church is my room, where I confess all my sins, and as I
repent, my salvation begins.
My church is my room, in a jail that feels like hell; to me it's a
church of love, to others, just....a cell - J Williams
Inspired by: "Doing Time with God" - Straight Ahead Ministries, Inc.
Scott Larson and Dan Mercer, Editors

As part of the Grand Prize, J. Williams was able to interview DJJ Commissioner Avery Niles and was recognized at a recent DJJ Board Meeting. The interview of Commissioner Niles can be read below.

Williams: Thank you so much for this awesome opportunity to interview you personally, Commissioner Niles.
Commissioner Niles: You are welcome!
Williams: What are your hobbies?
Commissioner Niles: My hobbies are watching football, spending time with my two year old God-daughter, playing golf,
and working at the funeral home.  At the funeral home, my job is to console and assist families that are grieving
due to the loss of a loved one.  I like being able to help people and this job allows me to be able to help people
at a very difficult time.
Williams: Do you enjoy sports? If so, did you play sports when you were in high school?
Commissioner Niles: Yes.  I played 9th grade basketball, but I did not play much.  I soon discovered I didn't have
any basketball talent.  I played football and was a four-year Letterman, my team was back to back state champions.
I loved playing football and today I enjoy playing and refereeing games.
Williams: Do you enjoy being Commissioner of DJJ? Is it a hard job?
Commissioner Niles: I do enjoy being Commissioner. It is a career, a calling, and not just a position.  I enjoy it
because I feel like I can help the youth to better their lives and become successful and productive citizens.  The
hardest part of my job is managing 4200 employees that all have different issues.  But, this is a great job and good
position to be in to help youth like you.
Williams: When you were my age, did you get in trouble?  Were you a good student?
Commissioner Niles: No, I didn't get into trouble, but my mom would probably say "yes", I did.  But, I had strong
siblings who were great role models and made sure I stayed away from trouble.  I never took part in negative
activities.  I never experimented with drugs and I stayed away from negative crowds.  I wanted to be successful.  I
did the typeical things a seventeen year old boy would do, including joking in school and sometimes breaking a few of
mom's rules, but nothing serious.  Nothing that that got me in real trouble.  I was not an A/B student in all my
classes and in some I earned C's, but all in all, I was an average student.
Williams: Where do you see the Agency in five years?
Commissioner Niles: I see the agency in five years as a beacon of hope and that the other states will look at Georgia
as trailblazers for increasing graduation rates and providing good education and seamless re-entry services.  My
vision for the agency is to have an increased number of high school graduates and focusing on programs to give
youth the appropriate treatment that is relevant to their individual needs and to help young people like you reach
your potential.  I'm truly focused on a more transparent agency, partnering with communities to change the scope
and outcomes of what parents and youth expect from DJJ.
Williams:  If you could give me a message for all of the yout at the Atlanta YDC, what would you want me to say to
them from you?
Commissioner Niles: Focus on your education, work on improving behaviors and strive to become the best person they
can be.  They should embrace success and and focus on good, positive goals.  Make their goals realistic and attainable
and work to reach each goal they set.  Work on getting a good education because education is the key to success and
all of the youth at this facility should strive for nothing less than SUCCESS!
Williams: Thank you sir, and have a good day.


Georgia News Network Georgia Focus Interview

Commissioner Avery D. Niles was the special interview guest on the “Georgia Focus” public affairs program on the Georgia News Network last weekend. The 30-minute “Georgia Focus” radio show is heard on 121 radio stations around the state.


Commissioner Niles covered a wide variety of topics in his interview.. from the launch of the new Chaplaincy Office and agency-wide Ombudsman problem-solver, to DJJ’s new Reentry Program and Career Guidance Centers.

The Commissioner spoke about the decrease in Georgia’s juvenile offender population under the new Juvenile Justice Reform Law, the increase in new personnel hired under H-R’s stepped-up recruiting campaign, and the special partnership with the Governor’s Office to provide returning veterans with real employment opportunities at DJJ as they reenter the civilian workforce.

Deal, GEMA premiere upgraded emergency mobile app

Deal: New features will keep Georgians prepared and informed during emergencies

Gov. Nathan Deal and the Georgia Emergency Management Agency/Homeland Security today introduced an upgraded version of the state’s emergency mobile app, Ready Georgia, which was designed to help Georgians stay safe and informed during emergencies. Upgrading the app was one of the recommendations of the governor’s Severe Winter Weather Warning and Preparedness Taskforce.

“When severe weather hit our state this year, I called on our emergency management agency to upgrade the state’s emergency app with shelter information, alternative transportation routes and other emergency-related information,” Deal said. “The Ready Georgia app already served as a good resource for Georgians, but now that its capabilities have been expanded it will keep us better informed when emergency situations arise. I appreciate the cooperative efforts of all involved in this process, and I encourage everyone to download this app in advance of future weather-related emergencies.”

Launching just in time for the start of hurricane season on June 1, the upgraded Ready Georgia app features geo-targeted severe weather and emergency alerts that will notify users’ phones before disasters strike. The app also includes traffic information, including a live traffic map with incident reports straight from the Georgia Department of Transportation. Finally, an enhanced shelters map displays the location of open Red Cross shelters and approved “good Samaritan” shelters, and provides directions from the users’ current location.

“This was a collaborative process and we’d like to thank all the organizations that partnered with us to provide information and feedback during development,” said GEMA/Homeland Security Director Charley English. “This app is an important tool in our ability to communicate with Georgians and help them stay informed, and we are really pleased with the new features that we have added as part of this upgrade.”

In addition to the new features, users will still be able to keep checklists of emergency supplies, create customized disaster plans for their families, check flood risk levels and historical tornado data near their location, and find contact information for their local emergency management agencies.

GEMA worked in partnership with the National Weather Service, GDOT, Georgia Tech and The Weather Channel during the app’s development. To download the Ready Georgia mobile app, visit For more information on how to prepare for severe weather, visit To learn about specific risks in your area, contact your local emergency management agency.

About Ready Georgia

Ready Georgia is a statewide campaign designed to educate and empower Georgians to prepare for and respond to natural disasters, pandemic outbreaks, potential terrorist attacks and other large-scale emergencies. The campaign is a project of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) and provides a local dimension to Ready America, a broader national campaign. Ready Georgia aims to prepare citizens for maintaining self-sufficiency for at least 72 hours following an emergency, and uses an interactive Web site, online community toolkit, broadcast and print advertising and public awareness media messaging to reach its audiences. Ready Georgia is also on Facebook and YouTube.


More Congratulations due for our DJJ Team!

I am writing to you again this week to share another round of compliments for employees nominated by their peers and supervisors to receive special recognition for the jobs they do for DJJ. Georgia’s official observance of Public Service Recognition Week has concluded, but not surprisingly, at the Department of Juvenile Justice we continue to witness your commitment and contributions to the DJJ Team nearly every day.

We know it’s those extra efforts by our dedicated staff that make the most significant difference in the lives of the many youth we see entering the intake doors of DJJ with their eyes on reentry to the world. We appreciate your determination to keep confronting daily challenges on the cutting edge of juvenile justice.

In addition to last week’s “Above & Beyond” Award announcements, the Commissioner’s Office also asked you to nominate your colleagues for the Public Employee Recognition Week (PERW) Awards. The following Department of Juvenile Justice employees have been named for special recognition by the PERW Awards Committee at DJJ for their excellence in the workplace which “…must be clearly above and beyond that which would be expected from an employee who is fully and competently discharging all of the duties and requirements of their job.”

The Community Service Award is presented to an employee who “…must have exhibited dedication by improving the quality of life for members of the community or made program improvements. Duties performed within state government do not count. Efforts must have been performed on personal time in the community.”

Community Service Award WINNER: Dodge Court Service Office (CSO)This office is involved in many community activities that make for a better Eastman, Georgia. The Dodge CSO staff volunteers with the Dodge County Community Food Bank to collect and pack food every Friday for their Weekend Backpack Program so local students will receive packs with ready to eat food and snacks for their weekend meals. The office also partners with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources to ensure rivers in Pulaski and Bleckley Counties are kept clean and free of pollution. Working with other volunteers, the Dodge CSO staff helped remove more than 500 pounds of trash from the river sites. This staff also partners with the Wal-Mart Foundation’s Local Community Contribution Program to provide clothes and school supplies for students. The Dodge CSO staff is truly committed to community service and should be applauded for their efforts.

The Humanitarian Award is presented to an employee who “…demonstrated significant humane concern that was characterized by tenderness, compassion and sympathy for people or animals, especially the suffering or distressed, that improved the individual’s welfare, happiness and dignity.”

Humanitarian Award WINNERS: Ms. Stacy Washington, JPM (Baldwin & Putnam CSO) and Mr. Edrick Adside JPPS II (Putnam CSO)
- JPM Washington and JPPS Adside worked tirelessly to ensure every need of a bi-lateral amputee youth was met. Their work afforded the youth an opportunity to receive a new prosthesis as well as being released from DJJ supervision on April 30, 2014 after only four months of agency care. “We salute Ms. Washington and Mr. Adside for the great humanitarian work.”

The Customer Service Award is presented to an employee who “…made exceptional contributions that exceeded expectations… and taken exceptional initiative… in “going the extra mile”… delivering services to external or internal customers… with timely and appropriate follow-up, responsiveness to the needs of all customers and demonstrated improvement of customer service and satisfaction.”

Customer Service Award WINNER: Mr. Brad York, JPPS II (Stephens CSO)Mr. York’s efforts to ensure a youth’s return from Florida to Georgia is the reason he was selected as the Customer Service Award recipient. JPPS York was on a scheduled day off when he learned that a youth committed to the Stephens CSO was on runaway status. Mr. York reported to the youth’s great-grandmother and grandmothers’ homes to pick up leads on where the youth may be located. After tireless efforts, Mr. York determined the youth was in Florida and Mr. York provided great counsel to the youth who subsequently reported back to Georgia to complete her commitment with DJJ.

The Leadership Award is presented to an employee who “…exemplified and promoted outstanding leadership qualities and behaviors. This individual or team is blazing a trail for others to follow, “head and shoulders above others” in achieving significant and tangible benefits for the agency or work unit.”

Leadership Award Winner: Mr. Shawn Swain, Investigator (Office of Investigations)The DJJ Cold Case Team was formed in July 2013, under the leadership of Investigator Shawn Swain, and at that time the team was assigned approximately 300 cases from 2011 and 2012. During the first four weeks of the assignment under Officer Swain’s supervision, 64% percent of the cold case investigations were completed. By mid-October all 2011 and 2012 cases were also completed. Officer Swain and his team were assigned 200 additional cases during the first half of 2013 with a completion deadline of December 31, 2013. Officer Swain and his team not only met their deadline, but completed all assigned cases on December 20, 2013. This accomplishment would not have been possible without Officer Swain’s ability to lead, manage and mentor. Mr. Swain’s leadership while spearheading the Office of Investigations’ Cold Case Team is the reason he is the recipient of the Leadership Award.

The “Why Contest” Award is presented for the agency employee-essay selected by the Commissioner for best expressing why a staff member is proud to work for the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice.

“The Why Contest” Winner: Ms. Shalanda Carter, Clerk 2 (Claxton RYDC)Shalanda Carter writes, “There are many reasons why I am proud to be a DJJ employee. I am proud to be a DJJ employee because we work together as a team to give troubled youth a solid foundation in becoming successful law-abiding citizens. It is a comforting relief to work in an environment that has values such as accountability, integrity, ongoing personal growth, intellectual curiosity, teamwork and innovation.” That is just an excerpt from Ms. Carter’s “Why Essay” and those words along with other sentiments in her essay earned her place as winner of “The Why Contest” at DJJ.

In addition to being positive co-workers and providing outstanding work, we have awarded these deserving recipients of DJJ’s PERW Awards in acknowledgement of their team work and extra efforts they have invested in the performance of their duties. Once again, I send you my personal thanks for a job well done, “One Team – One Mission”.


Avery D. Niles, Commissioner
Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice

May "Above and Beyond" DJJ Award Winners

Congratulations to our DJJ Team!

We are committed throughout the year to show appreciation to our DJJ Staff for staying on the cutting edge of juvenile justice 'Best Practices'. From May 4 through May 10, Public Service Recognition Week in Georgia provides us the opportunity to recognize you for your consistent performance as members of the professional DJJ Team.

Leadership in a juvenile justice career means keeping your moral compass on a true heading – Not just doing things right, but doing the right thing. From the moment new Correctional Officers put on their uniforms here, we urge them not only to look for ways to make the grade, but for ways to make a difference. I am sending these words of encouragement and appreciation to personally thank each of you for your commitment to this department and to those we serve.

I also want to share with you the names of DJJ Staff Members who have been nominated by their supervisors and peers to receive "Above and Beyond" Awards from the Commissioner's Office for helping this agency take on new challenges and move this agency toward its new goals.

On behalf of the Office of the Commissioner, the following DJJ employees have been named as candidates for special recognition in this workplace:

From the DJJ Secure Facilities: At Muscogee YDC, Director Mordie Askew nominates SSP 1, Mrs. Linda Phelps for providing youth case management at the facility and assisting Due Process with scanning of Disciplinary Reports into JTS. The nomination says she performs a vital support role for the facility PBIS Leadership team and when the SSP 2 was out on medical leave Mrs. Phelps also served as the Mental Health "on-call staff" for 8 consecutive weeks. Director Askew says all these duties are done with an enthusiastic team approach, exemplifying the meaning of a professional employee with a positive approach and selfless attitude.

At the Elbert Shaw RYDC, Director Bobby Hughes says he nominates Educational Instructor Rebecca Galloway because "where there is a need Rebecca Galloway is willing to help." The Director's nomination says Instr. Galloway works diligently to recruit and train volunteers from the community and to find and schedule special programs for the facility. Director Hughes says Galloway also serves on several committees for the facility and community, including the Wellness Committee, Relay for Life, The Women's Enrichment Center, Special Olympics and the Creative Arts Guild where she actually recruited volunteers to help RYDC youth develop their creativity. Director Hughes says Galloway is also a big supporter of Elbert Shaw's Christmas celebration for the RYDC youth.

At Eastman RYDC, Director Heath Holloway nominated Lt. Ronnie Whitman who has worked for the State of Georgia since 1993. Whitman transferred to Eastman RYDC in 2003, quickly moved up the ranks, made Lieutenant, and serves as the Facility Training Officer Coordinator. The nomination says Lt. Whitman has the respect of his co-workers because he is an excellent team player, listens to problems with an open mind, and is known for solutions that benefit both staff and the facility. The nomination describes Whitman as a "tremendous asset to Eastman RYDC" who "..Always puts others before himself.." and is "..Willing to work on his days off or stay late when the shift is short."

At Gainesville RYDC Director Chuck Hewett nominates Lt. Kenneth Ward whose work has consistently improved the facility. The nomination says Lt. Ward has made great strides in every aspect as Administrative Lieutenant for the RYDC. His responsibilities include key control, emergency plans, OCI preparation and staff awareness. Director Hewett says Ward strives to set the standard and displays leadership qualities that make a lasting impression on new officers. This nomination says Lt. Ward is the epitome of the kind of officer DJJ needs.

At Claxton RYDC Juvenile Correctional Lt. April DeShields is nominated by Director Shelia Dease who says the Lieutenant goes "Above and Beyond" the call of duty.. ".. every time she reports for duty and even when she's off duty." Director Dease reports Lt. DeShields frequently shares ideas to enhance facility operations and pushed the implementation of the PBIS program to help ensure youth behavior change. Director Dease cites DeShields' assistance with preparations to ensure the facility was inspection-ready for the recent DJJ Board tour of the Claxton RYDC. The nomination says Lt. April DeShields oversees training for newly hired staff, confirms day-to-day operations are running smooth, and that all staff are following policy and procedure.

At Rockdale RYDC Director Sherry Shoats nominated Lt. Jamie Allen who started with DJJ as a Juvenile Correctional Officer in July 2008 and rapidly rose through the ranks to Lieutenant at DeKalb RYDC in September 2011. Lt. Allen accepted a position at Rockdale in June 2013. Described by Director Shoats as the ultimate team player who is always available, Lt. Allen consistently reports during staff shortages, serves as Shift Supervisor, assists in security training, and is readily available to any department needing assistance. The nomination credits Lt. Allen for his knowledge of security and facility operations, his hard work, leadership abilities, and dedication to staff and youth in our care. The Director describes Lt. Allen as a trustworthy confidant, a great listener with excellent communication skills, and the "go to" person who completes assignments before deadlines. Director Shoats says Lt. Jamie Allen embodies a standard of excellence and a true leader.

At Savannah RYDC, Director Rodney Dinkins describes SERT Commander Brian Vinson as the dedicated, loyal, and hardworking employee that every manager dreams of having on their team. The nomination says Commander Vinson accepts the challenge of additional duties without complaint. He reports to work 30 minutes early, leaves after his team has departed, helps call in off-duty employees when shifts are short and is first to volunteer to stay when the facility security team is short. Director Dinkins says Commander Vinson engages troubled youth, takes time to talk with them, and helps them prepare for life in and out of detention. Director Dinkins Nominates Commander Vinson because of "..all the extra things he does to make the Savannah RYDC a safe and friendly environment."

At Waycross RYDC Director Sheila Phillips nominates AOC II Beverly Harrell for her diligent work at hiring new employees to bring up the facility's staffing level. Harrell started with DJJ at the Waycross RYDC in May 2013 and after only 11 and a half months, her diligent work has resulted in only 4 full time vacancies at the facility. During this time, she has also brought the facility finances and inventory into compliance. Director Phillips describes Beverly Harrell as a tremendous asset and her nomination states that Harrell's dedication to Waycross RYDC has greatly contributed to the success of their operations.

At Metro RYDC Director Pamela Mitchell nominates Officer Sharon Russell who she describes as "..consistently customer friendly and security focused." Director Mitchell says Officer Russell always displays a positive attitude and never complains about her duties even when she has to holdover when shifts are short. The nomination says Officer Russell is always willing to go the extra mile to assist other departments and "..has been observed doing the right thing even when she doesn't realize anyone is watching." Director Mitchell observes that models behavior that Officer Sharon Russell exemplifies the expectations of the Department of Juvenile Justice.

At Aaron Cohn RYDC Director Anthony Minnigan nominated Juvenile Corrections Officer Franchot Young who is the facility's AEPM officer. Director Minnigan says JCO Young is a 2012 graduate of BJCOT, extremely organized and has excellent written and verbal communication skills. The nomination says JCO Young does an excellent job enforcing standards resulting in a 15% reduction in the AEPM return rate since Young was assigned to the post. The nomination says Young has done an exemplary job and has motivated youth to stay in class and focus on getting their education. Director Minnigan says JCO Young has a consistency and tone to performing his duties and ".. has a strong sense of commitment and loyalty to the organization, its people and the mission." The nomination says JCO Young is a vital part of the facility.

From the DJJ CSO in Catoosa Juvenile Program Manager Robb Gilstrap made this posthumous nomination for the late JPPS II Robin Sponberger who lost her battle with leukemia in February 2014. Mr. Gilstrap's nomination describes as a DJJ staff member who left behind a legacy of community service that far exceeded her required duties. Ms. Sponberger began as a Whitfield office PA in August 2000 and worked her way to JPPS II at the Catoosa CSO. She is remembered for obtaining housing for a Catoosa parent whose child was hospitalized in Atlanta during placement. She arranged transportation for another Catoosa parent whose son was injured in a California fire. Ms. Sponberger made certain local families had wood to heat their home fires during winter and had presents for their children at Christmas. She helped plan the annual high school play for the Teen Dating Violence Task Force across a four-county circuit and helped moderate the Q & A session afterward for youth who needed guidance. Among the many youth and families who came forward after Ms. Sponberger passed away, JPPS III Susan Edgeworth and JPPS II Jake Sponberger (her son) from the Catoosa staff organized a 5k run to benefit Communities in Schools. More than 60 DJJ staff and community members signed up to "Run for Robin" in honor of her legacy.

At Spalding CSO, District 4 Director Bill Spears nominates the Spalding HITS Unit for their customer service on behalf of one of their clients. The nomination is based on a plan by JPM George Wimbush, JPPS III Stephanie Blokzyl, PA Sharon Young and JPPS l Carleena Brown to have family portraits taken for a DJJ youth on the HITS caseload whose mother was suffering from a terminal illness. The youth's mother wanted the family photos as a lasting memory for her two children before she died, but she was too sick to have the photos made herself. Together, the Spalding HITS Unit made arrangements for the photographer, the processing and the frames. Due to the mother's illness the photo shoot was postponed several times but the pictures were finally taken in a Griffin park and later shared at the DJJ Office with a grateful mother who knew she was in a race against time. The nomination says this effort gave the family something to always remember and cherish. Director Spears says the team work it took to make this special event happen stands as a positive example for current and future employees. Director Spears says it is a distinct honor to supervise such dedicated and caring employees.

..And from DJJ Central Office, Annette Jackson from the Office of Training is nominated by Deputy Commissioner Michael McNeely from the Division of Training and Personnel Services. The nomination says Ms. Jackson serves as Secretary II for the DJJ Training Academy Director where she works behind the scenes coordinating training events at the Academy, GPSTC and other venues in Forsyth, GA. to ensure successful activities. She manages all meals and lodging for academy programs, coordinates equipment purchases, and coordinates events for other offices and divisions even though it's not her responsibility. The nomination says Ms. Jackson is known for her pleasant personality, willing to be of service, has expert knowledge of the Academy and often goes above and beyond in her duties.

At Central Office Communications Unit, Special Projects Coordinator Matt Montgomery is nominated by Director Jim Shuler as a key player on the Communications Team, offering creative consultation on poster and brochure designs and on signature graphic styles for daily News & Views stories, the DJJ Newsletter, and Facebook and Twitter postings. The nomination says even when their creatives unit is overwhelmed with deadline projects, Matt still goes the extra mile for customers, making time to counsel DJJ clients about how to convey their messages and reach their target audiences. His creative and colorful contributions have even attracted project requests from outside agencies including state health officials, federal contractors, and the Office of Georgia's First Lady. Matt also contributes political guidance during crisis media situations. He remains calm during agency crises and remains in the office after regular business hours to see a crisis through. He is known for his remarkable memory and retrieving detailed trivia during campaign brainstorming sessions so often, it has earned him the nickname Matt "Google" Montgomery. He always projects a pleasant, positive and professional posture. The nomination says Mr. Montgomery embraces tremendous loyalty to the DJJ Team and mission and an exceptional ability to introduce innovative problem solving approaches.

Each of these deserving nominees has earned our deepest appreciation for the professionalism they have demonstrated and the diligence they have displayed in the performance of their duties.

In as much as the Office of the Commissioner considers staff recognition among DJJ's "Best Practices", it is the Executive Management Team's practice to acknowledge this manner of dedication and hard work in our facilities with the "Above and Beyond" Award. This award is designed to recognize DJJ Staff who have gone the "extra mile" to help make DJJ a better workplace for everyone.

In addition to providing outstanding work and being a positive co-worker, we hereby designate you as the deserving recipient of DJJ's "Above and Beyond" Award in acknowledgement of the long hours, extra effort, team work and attention to detail which you invested in your assignments.

With my personal thanks for a job well done, "One Team – One Mission".


Avery D. Niles, Commissioner
Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice

More from the May "Above and Beyond" Award Winners

Congratulations to our DJJ Team!

On behalf of the Office of the Commissioner I am sending these words of appreciation to personally thank a special group of DJJ nominees during Public Service Recognition Week for their commitment to this department and for their consistent performance as members of the DJJ professional Team.

I want to share with you the names of DJJ Staff who will be recognized by the Commissioner's Office for making extra efforts to go the "extra mile" to help make DJJ a better workplace for everyone.

Each of these deserving nominees has earned our appreciation for the professionalism they have demonstrated and the diligence they have displayed in the performance of their duties. The following DJJ Staff Members have been named as recipients of the "Above and Beyond" Award for their dedication and hard work in our agency.

From the Division of Operations & Compliance, Gang Program Coordinator Monique Brandenburg is presented with DJJ's "Above and Beyond" Award in recognition of her exceptional service to the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice. The nomination reads, "her effort to ensure the Macon YDC Prom was successful and her diligent efforts in support of the Music Video Program at the Eastman YDC were 'Above and Beyond' the standard call of duty. According to the nomination, those accomplishments "bring great credit to the Division of Operations and Compliance and the Department of Juvenile Justice."

The next group of recipients is recognized together for their work on a joint records reconstruction project at Central Office. The nomination reads, their exemplary support was "crucial to the success of the Commissioner's goals to reorganize key administrative file systems and to accurately document a caseload of more than a thousand incomplete investigations". According to the nomination, the professional efforts and personal dedication to this special DJJ assignment were above and beyond the standard call of duty. These 'Above and Beyond' Awards are presented to the following DJJ Staff Members in recognition of their exceptional service to the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice.

From Central Office, PREA Coordinator Adam Barnett, Division of Operations & Compliance.

From the Division of Operations & Compliance, Intelligence Analyst Arkeysha McCullough

From Division of Operations & Compliance, Program Coordinator Lalita Appling

From the SMRT Team, Special Operations Director Amy Fortner, Division of Operations & Compliance

From the SMRT Team, Lt. William Belflower, Division of Operations & Compliance

From SMRT Team Emergency Operations, Jesse Milledge, Division of Operations & Compliance

From the SMRT Team, JCO Kimberly Hicks, Division of Operations & Compliance

From the Office of Investigations, Intelligence Analyst – Investigator, Nathan Katzif

From the Office of Communications, Confidential Secretary Lisa Kenn

In addition to providing outstanding work and being positive co-workers, we hereby designate you as the deserving recipients of DJJ's "Above and Beyond" Award in acknowledgement of the long hours, extra effort, team work and attention to detail which you invested in your assignment.

Our personal thanks for a job well done,


J. Mark Sexton
Assistant Commissioner/Chief of Staff
Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice


Congratulations DJJ Staff!

Public Service Recognition Week is May 4 through May 10, providing us the opportunity to applaud you for your consistent performance as a professional and caring Team. Georgia’s dedicated juvenile justice workforce continues to find innovative solutions to our complex tasks and requirements. Your professional and personal contributions are critical to our progress in achieving juvenile justice reform.

It’s only May and already we have seen the kick-off of a very exciting year at the Department of Juvenile Justice. I think we all share an added enthusiasm at DJJ and it is due to the many accomplishments of our staff as you take on new challenges and move this agency toward new goals.

Just look at what we’ve done so far. We have opened one new facility, phased out another, and began construction on our newest Intensive Therapy Unit in Milledgeville. The design phase of two ‘new-generation’ facilities is also underway to provide increased capacity and flexibility and to offer additional youth services with a focus on ‘reentry’ into their communities.

We have created a new Office of Reentry Services this year to help increase overall success rates for former juvenile offenders transitioning to community life after release from their court ordered DJJ detention. This year we also added a Chaplain and Ombudsman to the Team to support that reentry mission.

In Education, we graduated more than 100 DJJ youth, presenting them with High School Diplomas or GED’s to help make their reentry to the workforce more sustainable. The Office of Community Services is receiving qualified Requests for Proposals to expand our Programming opportunities for DJJ youth.

This year we began the implementation of the wide-ranging state Juvenile Justice Reform Act. We also made important system-wide upgrades to address any federal PREA vulnerabilities. We have achieved nearly total PREA technical compliance and expect to be viewed nationally as a successful PREA audit model.

Our Safety and Security Task Force aided by the Office of Compliance, has completed DJJ audits in more than 75% of our secure facilities and some Court Service Offices. The Training Directorate has expanded its catalogue of courses available to our correctional officers and will continue to produce a professional development curriculum in the coming year.

Our High Intensity Supervision Officers Unit has been approved to attend Basic Law Enforcement Certification Training. Our Internal Investigations Officers are receiving advanced training and updating POST certifications.

These and many more Team accomplishments range across the full spectrum of DJJ duties and responsibilities: from the Human Resources recruiting campaigns bringing new Team members on board; to the IT Directorate getting those new hires equipped and on-line; to the Property Management Office providing space, furniture, equipment and vehicles; and the Leadership Team providing guidance to sustain this Department’s forward momentum.

These are exciting times because all the new ideas, new divisions and new initiatives we have launched would not be possible without you performing as a skilled and selfless staff on a daily basis to ensure the entire Department continues to improve and grow.

Your Executive Leadership Team is very proud to recognize the excellent work that all of you have produced over the last year. It is truly a pleasure to lead such a dedicated Team. Thank you for all you do for DJJ! “One Team – One Mission”.


Avery D. Niles, Commissioner
Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice

Happy Teacher Appreciation Day
If you can read this, thank a teacher!

Greetings Educators,

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week, May 5-9, 2014! Thank you for all the hard work you do every day. Thank you for your dedication to the students of Georgia Preparatory Academy. Whether you are an administrator, teacher, paraprofessional, or secretary, you are all part of a very important job of educating and giving our students the vital knowledge to live and be successful. We ALL need and want appreciation for what we do. I want to assure you that although working at Georgia Preparatory Academy sometimes feels like an unappreciated effort day in and day out, it is NOT. I appreciate all those extra things; those extra hours you work to ensure learning happens in our classrooms. I appreciate the help you give to our students to be successful.

Students are able to thrive and pursue their dreams thanks to you. A week is not enough time to celebrate everything teachers do, but I want to make sure that you know how much you are valued and how much we appreciate all that they do especially during this week.

As I close, I am reminded of a statement Dr. Armistad once made in my presence "teachers are often overtaxed and underappreciated." Too often we get busy in our day-to-day tasks and forget the little things that matter- such as a simple "thank you." As we show our appreciation to our educators,I am personally charging my Executive Team to do a better job in saying "thank you" to all employees. Let's use the spirit of "Teacher Appreciation Week" to embark on this endeavor. Thank you for all you do to help our students excel and our school system to improve. You are appreciated.

Happy Teacher Appreciation Day!

Avery D. Niles
Superintendent of Schools

DJJ News for Georgia Veterans:

Governor Signs ‘Purple Heart Day’ Bill to Honor Veterans/Georgia Veterans Qualify for FREE Driver’s Licenses

As members of the DJJ family of corrections professionals, you will be pleased to learn that Governor Nathan Deal has proclaimed “Purple Heart Day” every August 7th in Georgia by signing Senate Bill 276 into law. Governor Deal signed this legislation to honor our men and women killed or wounded while serving in the U.S. Armed Services.

‘Service Worthy of Praise’

With so many returning American veterans actively securing the safety of Department of Juvenile Justice centers in their own Georgia communities, the new senate measure is meant to encourage all citizens, schools, public officials and private organizations to honor our guardians who made the ultimate personal sacrifices during combat.

Upon signing the Purple Heart Day bill, Governor Deal said it is due to decades of sacrifices by our veterans that we can continue to call Georgia home. The Governor called their service and commitment, “…Unparalleled and worthy of praise...”

Georgia a Purple Heart State

The law also designates Georgia as a “Purple Heart State” with a declaration that further honors our state’s wounded veterans for their service and sacrifice.

“This legislation provides us with an annual platform to express our sincerest gratitude to Georgians who put our safety above their own,” the Governor said. “For the selflessness of these men and women, we are forever grateful.”

New Honors – New ID’s

In a separate state action starting in April 2014, adding to the honors bestowed by the Purple Heart Day Senate Bill, the Georgia Department of Driver Services (DDS) will now allow ALL military veterans to request a special license or identification card denoting their military service status. Details of this new license enhancement process for Georgia veterans were introduced during special ceremonies at the National Infantry Museum in Columbus.

ALL Georgia vets, regardless of where they enlisted or the timeframe when they served, may obtain a Georgia ‘patriotic veteran’s license’ at the same fees paid for traditional Georgia licenses or ID cards. (In the past, veterans who did not meet established eligibility service requirements were unable to request this license.) Georgia’s Division of Driver Services Commissioner said, “Giving our veterans the recognition they deserve is something every state should really do. For many military veterans, it can be difficult to carry around documentation to prove they served in the armed forces,” said DDS Commissioner Rob Mikell.

New Recognition & Convenience

In the past, armed forces veterans had to carry copies of their “DD214” – military separation papers to prove their military veteran status. The bulky government forms are too large to fit into wallets and are easily misplaced. Now, having a special veteran’s license or ID card makes for easier access to everyday benefits and discounts veterans are entitled to receive.

The Commissioner of Georgia’s Department of Veterans Service expressed gratitude to state DDS partners for championing this change. “Now every veteran, regardless of service, will be able to proudly carry a Georgia Veteran’s Driver’s License or ID Card,” said Commissioner Pete Wheeler. “I am proud Georgia now extends this honor to everyone who served – regardless of their duty.”

The Process

To establish their proof of service, Georgia veterans must visit one of the Georgia Department of Veterans Service (GDVS) offices and present separation documentation (DD Form 214) from the U.S. Department of Defense to be issued their Certificate of Eligibility to receive a Georgia Veteran’s Driver’s License & Identification Card. Those who meet Georgia’s residency and service requirements may bring the eligibility certificate to any DDS customer service center, where they will be issued a free license or ID.

Veterans who do not meet the established requirements for a free license & ID may bring the certificate to any DDS customer service center to be issued a veteran’s license – ID at the standard licensing fee of (5 years for $20.00 or 8 years for $32.00).

For more information please visit the DDS website at or the DVS at An example of the Georgia veteran driver’s license is shown above. The veteran status is designated at the bottom of the license.

Commissioner Niles Tells Metropol Police Execs:

“..Georgia citizen safety always comes first, but ‘lock-em up and throw away the key’ is becoming a thing of the past in Georgia..”

Article by Jim Shuler, DJJ Director, Office of Communications

“These youth are coming in younger and they’re staying longer,” Commissioner Avery D. Niles told members of Atlanta Metropol in March. “And just because you pick these youth up off the street doesn’t mean they’re going to immediately become model citizens behind the wire,” the Commissioner said. “But we’re trying hard to reach them and turn them around.”

Commissioner Avery Niles was addressing nearly a hundred Atlanta area police executives from state, federal and multi-jurisdictional agencies who gather once a month at these Metropol law enforcement meetings to share intelligence, resolve mutual problems and network about local trends in crime. The Atlanta Metropol group was founded in 1965 to help upgrade Metro Area law enforcement through better police training, communications and coordination.

Members wanted to hear about the implementation of Georgia’s new Juvenile Justice Reform Law that went into effect this January. They wanted to know how the new law is affecting security at the Department of Juvenile Justice and if DJJ is still helping to protect communities from juvenile crime on the streets.

“The safety of Georgia citizens is still the top priority for DJJ and for Governor Nathan Deal,” the Commissioner told local police chiefs and sheriffs. “Safety is always first. These new ways of handling juvenile crimes will in no way weaken this agency’s goal of providing public safety,” said Niles.

The new reform law has a dual purpose to place higher risk youth in secure facility programs while strengthening community supervision programs for youth who are less likely to recidivate.

“The overall spirit of this reform is to invest in mentoring, vocational, educational and rehabilitative programs for some of Georgia’s most troubled young people. That means finding evidence-based programs to change the lives of these young offenders and providing them the opportunity to work at becoming productive Georgians,” said Commissioner Niles.

Niles told Metropol members one way of accomplishing that goal is to assess Georgia’s troubled youth in detention and provide those high-risk youth with necessary wraparound services in preparation for the day they are released from custody.

“These youth are coming in at a younger age and leaving as young adults. I’m convinced the public’s former belief of ‘lock-em up and throw away the key’ is becoming a thing of the past in Georgia,” Commissioner Niles said. “We can’t miss a critical chance in juvenile justice to offer life-changing opportunities we call ‘reentry services’. We must concentrate on teaching our youth fundamental skillsets while they are committed to our custody.”

To accomplish this essential goal, DJJ is partnering with technical colleges and university systems for training programs now, so these youth can find jobs later when they get out. DJJ’s comprehensive reentry program includes support through volunteer programs, faith-based connections and civic groups.

Commissioner Niles considers successful reentry so important he has identified it as one of the top five priorities of his administration. He told Metropol members that law enforcement must also have a vested interest in the success of the DJJ reentry process, because the only way to start making safer communities is by making more productive citizens.

“We may make a temporary impact just by getting troubled youth off the streets and into DJJ detention for a while, but you must remember that someday they’ll be returning to your community,” Niles told Metropol. “The ultimate outcome is that we either develop viable reentry programs to teach our juvenile offenders essential life skills now, or we may face them again later as more angry adult repeat offenders in our neighborhoods.”


Good afternoon DJJ Staff,

Commissioner Avery D. Niles again sends this message of appreciation for the care and cooperation demonstrated by professional DJJ Staff responding to the call of duty last week during the Severe Winter Storm that targeted the State of Georgia.

That Extreme Weather event has underlined the importance of understanding Department of Juvenile Justice procedures for receiving official severe weather announcements from the DJJ Management Team and the effects of unpredictable weather conditions on DJJ work schedules and office closings.

On behalf of Commissioner Niles, the DJJ Communications Office has been asked to share some updated instructions about the official DJJ agency messaging methods to help keep you informed in the event of a repeat of inclement weather.


While the DJJ Communications Office will typically contact DJJ Staff through the official “DJJ Users” email tree, DJJ Communications may also send out official notices through its back-up email LISTSERV system called “JUVENILEJUSTICE-L”.

If you did not receive any DJJ notification emails during this latest winter storm event, please ensure that you and your fellow employees are added to the DJJ back-up LISTSERV by sending your sign-up email to [email protected] .


In addition to any DJJ LISTSERV email postings you receive during a Severe Winter Storm, please remember to check the Department of Juvenile Justice Facebook and Twitter feeds for the most recent information from your DJJ Communications Team.

DJJ Facebook and Twitter links can be found at the DJJ Communications website at (www./) or on the front page of the DJJ website at (

You can also look us up at Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice or Twitter ("#"GeorgiaDJJ) or directly through Facebook at ("#"pages/Georgia-Department-of-Juvenile-Justice/137120609640510) .


All official agency news will also be posted on the “What’s New at DJJ” section on the DJJ Communications website. “What’s New at DJJ” can be accessed on the front page of the DJJ website (, and on the front page of the DJJ Communication Website (www./) or directly at (/whatsnewatdjj/viewnews.asp).


When extreme weather strikes please print out copies of the Commissioner’s emergency announcements to share with other staff who may have limited online access.

DJJ Policy also indicates that State of Georgia employees working in the Atlanta Metro Area should listen to WSB Radio 750AM and 95.5FM or watch WSB-TV Channel 2 for Official State of Georgia weather instructions from the Governor’s Office.

You can also contact DJJ managers or supervisors to get updates about emergency weather measures for DJJ offices. The DJJ Executive Team thanks all health, education, food services, administrative and correctional staff at the Department of Juvenile Justice throughout the state for their professional spirit and dedication during long hours demanded during the January winter storm.

This severe weather notification system update information should be shared by all managers and directors at the Department of Juvenile Justice during shift changes this week. Thanks for all you do for DJJ.

“One Team – One Mission” on behalf of ..

Avery D. Niles, Commissioner
Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice



Good day DJJ Staff,

As you return to the workplace this week, I send my personal thanks to all secure facility certified personnel. You and significant numbers of support staff colleagues delivered their personal best during the severe weather event last week that put our agency’s effectiveness to the test throughout the state.

Thank you for answering the call of duty that mandates our security staffing, medical care and nutrition are maintained at appropriate levels even when DJJ Secure Facilities are otherwise listed for closure due to inclement weather and hazardous travel conditions.

The nation’s eyes were on Georgia when Governor Deal had to declare a state of emergency due to the extreme weather that kept most state employees from safely travelling to their office for more than two days.

But you reported for duty as scheduled. You helped carry out the DJJ mission when we needed you most and this was no easy task. Regardless of weather, this department has a responsibility to the youth in our custody who require our constant specialized care and supervision.

Your dedication during severe weather showed your professional commitment to DJJ:
Some of you had icy highway car crashes. But you came in anyway.
Some of you were stranded in traffic or had flat tires. But you came in anyway.
Some of you ran out of gas. But again, you managed to come in.

That kind of dedication to duty is highly valued not only by your Executive Staff, but by your colleagues who were already standing-by to be relieved after working their regular shifts as well.

I want you to know I have asked all managers and directors at the Department of Juvenile Justice to read my message aloud during shift change this week. Again, I send you my heartfelt thanks for answering the call of duty so that our agency would measure up to this task. “One Team – One Mission”.


Avery D. Niles, Commissioner
Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice

Interview with the Georgia Public Policy Foundation with Judge Teske

DJJ Commissioner Avery Niles and Judge Steven Teske talk to the Georgia Public Policy Foundation about juvenile justice reform and the real world impact for Georgia.

Congratulations DJJ's First Consolidated Graduation Ceremony

DJJ Staff,

We have exciting news to share with the statewide DJJ Team. The Department of Juvenile Justice is proud to announce the success of its 2013 winter school session. Nearly seventy determined young graduates crossed the stage in caps and gowns on December 19th to receive their high school diplomas and GED’s at Georgia’s Youth Development Campus in Augusta.

The event was a milestone in the lives of our youth and for their parents who supported them so long and traveled so far, to see them through to their special day. It was also a landmark occasion for those of us at the Department of Juvenile Justice who witnessed a DJJ-First. This was the first consolidated graduation ceremony ever conducted by the Department of Juvenile Justice.

No previous DJJ administration has ever attempted to bring this many enthusiastic graduates from all its Youth Development Campuses together under one roof to share the common-bond and common-goal of success through education. This was a shining moment for DJJ, to be remembered and celebrated both in their young lives and in our juvenile justice careers.

Youth from our Campuses in Muscogee, Macon, Milan, Eastman, Atlanta, Augusta, and Sumter marched-in as students from Georgia’s 181st state school district-- And then with a traditional turn of their tassels, marched-out as the Georgia Preparatory Academy’s Graduating Class of 2013.

It was the quality of their classwork, homework, and testing skills that helped them earn their handshakes and diplomas on stage. But no one will forget that it was you, the men and women of the Department of Juvenile Justice, who made it possible for these young people to march proudly in the processional to the inspiring music of “Pomp and Circumstance”.

I congratulate every one of you for your professionalism and concern that every day allows these young people to learn in a detention environment. You make it possible for them to successfully function as thinking individuals and to fully engage in our education opportunities. You helped make this dynamic day come to pass for DJJ.

Together as the state’s juvenile justice Team, this is how we work to improve the lives of youth entrusted to our supervision. I have observed a promising increase in the graduation rate of our youth in custody and I look forward to our many future successes.

As Commissioner of the Department of Juvenile Justice, I will continue to call upon your skill and personal commitment to encourage our young offenders to excel through education and to be better off for their time spent in our care. In the words of today’s graduation valedictorian from Milan YDC, “We must remain focused on our intended goals. Today is the day we begin to plan our work and work our plan. It was a long and hard journey, but with God’s help all things are possible.”

Days like this always make me pause to reflect that when we take time to provide for “the least of these among us” we are choosing to pass along some of the blessings we have received in our own lives. I count among my many blessings the opportunity to work and provide leadership to this great team. My thanks to all of you for your devotion to service as we celebrate the success of our department’s first consolidated graduation ceremony. “One Team – One Mission”.

Avery D. Niles, Commissioner

Letter from the Commissioner: Gwinnett RYDC

Good evening DJJ Staff,

Please give your attention to this important update I have to share with you regarding our statewide system of secure juvenile justice facilities. This fall, when I informed you about the Paulding RYDC closing, I predicted that within just a few months the DJJ Team would see more of these important changes coming to Georgia juvenile justice next year.


After coordinating with Governor Deal and members of the Gwinnett judiciary, state legislators and local law enforcement officials, I made an official statement Friday announcing the June 2014 closing of our Regional Youth Detention Center in Gwinnett County. I also took DJJ Executive Team members to Gwinnett to personally explain the scheduled closing to our RYDC Staff.


DJJ’s Gwinnett facility has weathered more than thirty continuous years of wear as a youth detention center. The Department of Juvenile Justice made the decision to close the RYDC in Gwinnett based on our expectations of increasing maintenance costs for an aging facility with obvious infrastructure issues.

This decommissioning blueprint has been in development since the legislature provided funds several years ago to build the Rockdale RYDC as a replacement facility. We are now closing the Gwinnett facility to finish that process. When we had to commence an emergency shut down on the Gwinnett RYDC for more than a month this year to make a costly sewer line repair, we no longer had any doubts about starting the decommissioning process.


We’re dealing with a facility in Gwinnett that has lived-out its structural life cycle. The scheduling of our closing announcement was to avoid foreseeable infrastructure breakdowns in outdated HVAC systems, roofing, plumbing, and outmoded CCTV security equipment. Due to the age of the Gwinnett facility, the closing is timed to produce an estimated annual cost savings in the tens of thousands of dollars for significant facility overhead costs in future repairs, replacements, and upgrades of outdated and outmoded equipment.


DJJ could not close the Gwinnett RYDC until we had prepared suitable facilities to relocate the approximately 50 juvenile offenders we accommodate there. So we turned to DJJ’s pre-planned, long-term maintenance and refurbishing project for the new Rockdale RYDC location in Conyers, Georgia.

At Rockdale, DJJ retrofitted a former D.O.C. 100-bed open-bay adult work-release facility into a new 52-bed juvenile detention facility with individual cells that conform to PREA standards. Rockdale was successfully phased into full service this summer to meet DJJ's future bed capacity needs and to provide for a juvenile detention facility in the east-central part of the state where the agency previously lacked secure bed space.

The timing of the year-end Gwinnett RYDC closing announcement would also provide local law enforcement, judiciary and stakeholders with an early start to develop contingency plans of their own for revised manpower and transportation schedules.


When DJJ closes the old Gwinnett County RYDC in June 2014, juvenile offenders from the DJJ service area in Rockdale County and the southern part of Gwinnett County will be assigned to the new Rockdale RYDC.

Juvenile offenders from the DJJ service area in Hall County and the northern part of Gwinnett County will be assigned to another RYDC in Gainesville. All DJJ youth will receive the full spectrum of quality care, appropriate programs, and educational opportunities they would have accessed at the Gwinnett RYDC.


My instructions to DJJ staff during the Gwinnett facility closing are the same as those for the Paulding RYDC closing this month. The professional Gwinnett RYDC Staff will maintain daily routines, timetables, visitation and privileges according to policy for our youth.

DJJ will not tolerate interruptions of education and learning activity during this transition. DJJ will have contingency plans in place to ensure corrections staffing is managed at appropriate levels at all times to ensure public safety and the security of DJJ youth and staff during the facility closure.


The Department of Juvenile Justice Staff will complete the youth transfer in the most efficient, caring and considerate manner and with the least possible disruption for the parents and family of DJJ youth who will be moving to new locations. Parents and guardians will receive notice of change of address from DJJ for youth who are transferred from the Gwinnett facility. Parents and guardians should also watch for updates on the Department of Juvenile Justice webpage at /gwinnettrydcclosure/.


Between 60 and 80 DJJ staff will be employed at Gwinnett RYDC between now and the time it’s decommissioned at the end of June 2014. As Commissioner, I am repeating the assurance I gave our Gwinnett RYDC Staff during our recent meeting: “DJJ Human Resources Division will work closely to assist in locating appropriate employment opportunities for our state employees who will be displaced by this closing”.


DJJ is committed to the Gwinnett RYDC Staff because the staff is committed to the DJJ mission. We need these experienced professionals and we will continue to work together on the DJJ Team to serve the needs of the youth entrusted to our custody and care.

Our current employees will be provided full options on available career opportunities at other DJJ facilities based on their skills, qualifications and requests for location transfers, with the understanding that all applicants will be subject to performance review.


As Commissioner of the Department of Juvenile Justice I have committed this agency to protect the public and to reclaim the lives of Georgia’s juvenile offenders through our focus on education, prevention and rehabilitation. With the DJJ Team, I am personally dedicated to making positive changes in this department. I appreciate your personal commitment to achieve a workplace where together we will set the standards for the profession’s best practices. With your help, we look forward to a smooth transition of services from the Gwinnett RYDC.

My thanks to all of you for your devotion to service.

“One Team – One Mission”.

Avery D. Niles, Commissioner

Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice

Commissioner’s Thanksgiving Message to Department of Juvenile Justice Staff

Good afternoon DJJ Staff,

I hope this Thanksgiving season finds all of you and your families with many reasons to be thankful. I know that my family considers this a very special time of year and it is always a time of reflection for us. This holiday was established by our country’s earliest founders who took time from their tasks to acknowledge the blessings that God had provided, ensuring their survival in a challenging new world.

This tradition for giving thanks was formalized by our first President as one of our first national holidays in 1789 when George Washington declared to grateful citizens of a new nation: “whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”

Our country has weathered and celebrated many changes since President Washington dedicated our official Thanksgiving holiday, but one thing remains constant: We are blessed among nations for the opportunities afforded our people, with many of those blessings bestowed simply because we are citizens of these United States.

Our chosen vocation to serve the citizens of Georgia and the youth in our care also provides us with a unique set of blessings. We choose to devote our time and our talents to redirect the lives of young offenders. We ensure their safety, encourage their education, and provide for their health and well-being. We know the youth who take advantage of these opportunities in our secure facilities or in our community service settings, can be better off for their time spent in our care.

When we take time to provide for “the least of these among us” we are choosing to pass along some of the blessings we have received in our own lives.

As we spend this holiday season with family and friends, please know it is a blessing to be able to work with such a professional and caring staff. Your efforts to provide for these youth each day are an inspiration. I consider the opportunity to work with you and to provide direction and leadership to this great team to be one of the many blessings the Lord has bestowed upon me.

Please be safe in all that you do this holiday. Your safe return to work afterward is critically important to the work we all have ahead of us. I look forward to our many future successes.

One Team, One Mission.

Avery D. Niles, Commissioner
Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice



On November 13th, Department of Juvenile Justice Commissioner Avery D. Niles was honored to be appointed by Governor Nathan Deal to the nominating committee to chose Georgia's next head of the Office of the Child Advocate. The nominating committee is in charge of finding a deserving replacement to current Child Advocate Tonya Boga whose three year appointment is soon to be finished.

Commissioner Niles joins an illustrious group of professionals on the Child Advocacy nominating committee from across the state including Cherokee County Juvenile Court Judge John Sumner, Carrollton Police Chief Joel Richards, Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jackie Johnson, DHS Commissioner Keith Horton, Georgia COO Bart Gobiel, and Department of Behavioral Health and Development Disabilities Commissioner Frank Berry. The nominating committee will recommend candidates for consideration of the Child Advocate position. The committee will select from a pool of individuals with knowledge of the child welfare system, the juvenile justice system, and the Georgia legal system that are qualified to perform the duties of the job.

The vision for the Georgia Office of the Child Advocate is to be the first place for those in government and the private sector to turn for advice, assistance, and aid regarding the at-risk families and foster children of our state. To realize that vision, the Office pledges:

To respond in a helpful manner to all complaints, concerns, and questions we receive about our state's child-serving agencies and to use staff expertise to overcome obstacles to achieving positive outcomes for children and families in need of assistance;

To use our well-trained evaluation and policy staff to collect objective data about the safety and well-being of our state's children and to share that information with policymakers; and

To serve as a reliable source for proven, evidence-based practices and policies our state's government and communities can implement to improve the lives of families most in need of assistance.

The Georgia Office of the Child Advocate will work proactively and steadily to improve the way Georgia helps families in need. Commissioner Niles and members of the nominating committee hope that by working in partnership with other child-serving agencies and child advocates, the Georgia Office of the Child Advocate can avoid tragic outcomes rather than merely reacting to crises and tragedies.

Congratulations again to Commissioner Niles for his appointment to this prestigious committee. For more information on the Georgia Office of the Child Advocate, visit them on the web at

Commissioner Niles' One Year Anniversary Message

November 1, 2013

Good afternoon DJJ Staff,

Today marks the one-year anniversary of my appointment by Governor Deal as the Commissioner of the Department of Juvenile Justice. Looking back, I want to share some insights from the last 365 days with this Department. I am happy to say that we have witnessed many accomplishments together over the past year and I would like to recognize some of those with you.

We have seen the successful passage of Georgia's Juvenile Justice Reform legislation and the Governor signing HB 242 into law. We have restructured the Department's organization chart. We have added new members to the agency's outstanding leadership team.

Inside the classrooms of the state's 181st school district, we have observed a promising increase in the graduation rate of our youth in custody, based on upgrades to our educational programming. Concurrently, our youth-on-youth assault rates have diminished from year to year.

We have updated more than 900 officers' training records with POST to ensure that all of our certified corrections staff will be found in good standing. We also have approval from POST Council to increase our Basic Juvenile Corrections Officer training from a 4-week course to a professional 5-week course.

While providing raises for all DJJ employees was a goal beyond our reach in 2013, we paid accumulated FSLA comp time down to 240 hours for all eligible employees in December, and later accomplished a one-time payment to both the security positions and to the JPPS positions to supplement the salaries that you work so hard for.

We also faced some other challenges, like the high turnover rate we continue to encounter in some of our staff positions, particularly the JCO-1s. We are working to stabilize leadership positions throughout the department so that everyone can have a more stable work environment. We received the Cameron and Associates staff survey results and we are working to address the useful observations that you as a staff provided us.

Please know that the most rewarding part of my job is the privilege of working in the company of this excellent DJJ staff while providing appropriate oversight for the youth in our care. I am honored to be in a position to lead such a strong team and I look forward to many future successes as we continue to work together. Have a great weekend and be safe. "One Team - One Mission".

Avery D. Niles

Avery D. Niles
Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice



Commissioner Niles Letter to the DJJ Staff: Paulding RYDC

Good Day, DJJ Staff,

I believe that while we carry out our daily duties at the Department of Juvenile Justice, we should also be constantly seeking ways to refine our existing programs and develop new ones. Today as Commissioner of the Department of Juvenile Justice, I am asking for your full attention to this important message about a strategic adjustment DJJ is making in our statewide system of secure facilities.

I am writing to inform you of a major refinement we have developed that is scheduled to become effective very soon. At my direction, the Department of Juvenile Justice will allow the current contract for operations at the Paulding Regional Youth Detention Center in Dallas, Georgia to end on its expiration date of December 31, 2013. I am also writing this to each of you to explain the reasons why:

The decision to allow the six-month contract extension at the Paulding RYDC to expire was based on the economics of being able to close the RYDC, reduce considerable overhead facility costs, incur minimal reduction of bed space in our system, and access millions in DJJ funds for additional treatment and counseling services for the youth in our care and custody.

I want to share the rest of the facts behind this important decision with you. You may have heard me publicly report that secure detention at DJJ represents a significant expense -- about $90,000 dollars per year, per youth in our custody. The closing of just this one RYDC will result in DJJ’s annual savings of more than $6 million dollars, without displacing any youth currently in our system.

This refinement is being made before the year-end, after balancing the costs against the current trending population in this RYDC’s catchment area. Some short-term youth were being held in detention at Paulding specifically because of the Paulding RYDC’s extra capacity.

Not long from now, DJJ’s pre-planned, long-term maintenance and refurbishing project at the Sumter Youth Development Center will bring a 75-bed capacity back on-line for DJJ late this December. Some of our Paulding youth can be transferred to our Sumter facility where they can continue to receive the full spectrum of appropriate services and treatment. An additional 20-bed capacity will be coming on-line for DJJ at the refurbished Martha K Glaze Regional Youth Detention Center (RYDC) located in Clayton County as of January 2014.

The juvenile population at the Paulding Regional Youth Detention Center now numbers under 50 offenders at this time. DJJ plans to begin the orderly relocation of youth from the Paulding RYDC secure facility in early December 2013 and again in late December 2013.

The remaining Paulding youth will be diverted to DJJ’s RYDC locations in the Greater Atlanta Metro Area where they will receive the same level of quality care and educational opportunities they would have accessed at the Paulding RYDC. All juvenile offenders at the Paulding RYDC will be transferred to other DJJ secure facilities by the end of December 2013.

Parents and guardians will receive notice of change of address from the Department of Juvenile Justice for youth who are transferred from the Paulding facility.

The Department of Juvenile Justice Staff will work in partnership with Youth Services International to finish the detention center closing and complete the youth transfer in the most efficient, caring and considerate manner and with the least possible disruption for the parents and family of DJJ youth who will be moving to new locations.


The Department of Juvenile Justice has no plans for construction or demolition at the Paulding RYDC while the detention center is being decommissioned. Youth Services International will have contingency plans in place to ensure corrections’ staffing is managed at appropriate levels at all times to ensure public safety and the security of DJJ youth and staff during the facility closure.

Paulding RYDC Staff will work hard to maintain the same daily routines, timetables and privileges as previously scheduled for the youth in residence. YSI will ensure a minimum of distractions and interruptions of education activities during this transition and will insist on daily procedures being observed as required by DJJ policy.

The DJJ’s secure facility in Paulding County is currently run by Youth Services International, a private corrections company also known as YSI, which operates the state-owned youth detention facility under contract with the State of Georgia. Administrators, Corrections Officers and Support Staff at Paulding RYDC are not employees of the State of Georgia.

DJJ plans to work closely with YSI administrators to assist in locating appropriate employment opportunities for the YSI private employees currently working at the Paulding RYDC based on their skills and qualifications. Current Paulding RYDC employees will be provided access to available career opportunities at other DJJ facilities with the understanding that transfers are not automatic and that all applicants will be subject to past performance review and background checks within state guidelines.

DJJ continues its longstanding relationship with YSI as it continues to operate another state owned secure facility in Crisp County and its own Youth Development Center in Milan, Georgia under contract with the State of Georgia. The Department of Juvenile Justice is not planning or scheduling any additional detention center closings this year.

As Commissioner of the Department of Juvenile Justice I have committed this agency to protect the public and reclaim the lives of Georgia’s juvenile offenders through our focus on education, prevention and rehabilitation. As the DJJ Team, we work together to strengthen Georgia families and communities while we look forward to improving the lives of the youth entrusted to our custody.


Within a few short months we will see the innovations of Georgia’s new Juvenile Justice Reform Law come to pass. I am personally dedicated to making positive changes in this department and in the lives of the youth we serve. I appreciate your personal commitment to help us achieve a workplace where together we will set the standards for our profession’s best practices. With your support, we look forward to a smooth transition of services at the Paulding RYDC and to a year of innovation at the Department of Juvenile Justice.

My thanks to all of you for your devotion to service. “One Team – One Mission”.

Avery D. Niles
Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice




“Do You Know the Law?” ....That’s the question the Department of Juvenile Justice wants to ask Georgia teens from Valdosta to Augusta this year as we plan a series of captivating teen forums around the state.

The “Know the Law” forums are designed to educate students from twelve to twenty-one about the importance of acting correctly in the presence of law enforcement,  about hanging out with the right friends, about making responsible choices every day, and about anticipating the kind of consequences to expect from reckless teen actions.

My hope is teens everywhere will embrace the law, know what the law is, and know how the law applies to them. If all they know is what they’ve seen in movies or video games, there’s a serious reality crash headed their way and then it’s too late.

The forums focus on educating teen audiences about the law through conversations with local police chiefs, sheriff’s, prosecutors and judges. The professionals on these panels talk about what not to do on school campuses, and what teens need to know now to keep them away from trouble, and out of Georgia’s juvenile justice system.

Education is still the key for many youth who are just another misdemeanor away from a parole violation that can lock them up in juvenile detention for months. Educating our young people about how the law applies to them and then intervening with new opportunities can reduce the chances of many of our youth becoming juvenile offenders.

With attendance from local churches, youth groups, and area schools, we launched our first “Know the Law” teen forum this summer on a Wednesday evening in Gainesville, Georgia. The event drew more than 150 local students to the University of North Georgia’s Oakwood campus. 

Our goal is to draw out any young people at-risk, get them involved, discuss these issues and get them informed. Our goal is about acting pro-actively, not re-actively in our communities.

A familiar panel of local criminal justice experts fielded questions from the audience, spoke frankly, and offered some serious advice. The Hall County Sheriff, two Hall County Juvenile Court Judges, a Gainesville Police Major and a former youth detainee joined me to cover topics from marijuana and misconduct on campus, to felonies and fake I-D’s.

The Judges answered questions ranging from teen sex and the law to misdemeanors and military service. In their discussion about juvenile records, the panel also talked about which teens may get protection under juvenile laws and which teens may get prosecuted in the juvenile courts. 

This Hall County teen forum was also a great test run for what we hope will become the successful blueprint for his long range plan to conduct many more teen forums across the state. The Department of Juvenile Justice maintains 28 juvenile detention centers in Georgia. I have set a personal goal to hold a teen forum in each of those host communities where DJJ runs a secure facility.

We want to remind our youth that even as teens, their lives can present meaningful choices with significant consequences. If they make positive choices now, they won’t have to face the negative consequences of having the professionals from our panels making crucial decisions that can affect their lives for years to come.

These face- to- face forums are a proven format for reaching out to at-risk youth in our communities.  It’s so much simpler to have these conversations with our young people now, before the criminal life can find them.  It’s immeasurably harder to break through to them after they get into serious trouble.

So whether we have standing room- only crowds at our next forum or if we only reach one or two young people at a time, it’s time well spent if we can help keep the population count down in Georgia’s juvenile justice system.

To see photos and coverage of the Gainesville – Hall County teen forum, visit us at this link:
/doyouknow13/ . We will announce the date and location of his next “Know the Law” teen forum on the Department of Juvenile Justice “News & Views” webpage at / .



Avery Niles Interview with Martha Zoller on Georgia's Morning News/

On Monday, June 17th, DJJ Commissioner Avery Niles spoke to Martha Zoller and Tim Bryant on Georgia's Morning News with Zoller and Bryant. The topic of conversation was the recent suspensions of 20 Department of Juvenile Justice employees, the federal report on sexual assaults, and the passage of Georgia's new juvenile justice reform act.


Today, Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice Commissioner Avery D. Niles announced the dismissal of a Juvenile Probation Parole Specialist (JPPS) for violations of departmental ethics and conduct policy. Commissioner Niles personally approved the dismissal.


Commissioner Niles said several unsatisfactory performance factors lead to the termination for employee misconduct. “The former JPPS provided inaccurate information about his schedules and activities during work hours and he displayed insubordinate behavior when he abruptly hung up the phone on his supervisor,” said Commissioner Niles.


“This JPPS was overtly dishonest with his supervisor regarding his whereabouts and performance of his duties,” said Niles. “For his failure to maintain his established work schedule -- for his failure to deliver quality customer service in a courteous manner -- and for his failure to display professionalism and refrain from insubordination -- I approved this adverse action,” the Commissioner said.


DJJ Policy 3.10 requires Department of Juvenile Justice employees to practice honesty and integrity in every aspect of dealing with supervisors, fellow employees, youth, the public, vendors, and other government authorities.


DJJ Policy 3.30 requires employees to request approval for leave and adjustments in work schedules and to accurately report time worked.


“We demand employee performance of the highest moral and ethical standards,” said Commissioner Niles. “Violations of the DJJ Conduct and Ethics Policy are violations of trust that can result in discredit to the Department.


“They’re violations that can affect our ability to fulfill our agency mission. For the safety and security of our staff, our supervisors must be aware of actual staff whereabouts and activities during work hours,” the Commissioner said.


Since his appointment by the Governor in November, Commissioner Niles’ agency-wide get-tough warnings have emphasized that DJJ staff accountability will be enforced with equal vigor throughout the agency.


“At the Department of Juvenile Justice, staff members who violate positions of trust and responsibility will continue to face severe consequences, regardless of time on the job, employee rank or position in this agency. I gave one clear warning when I was appointed Commissioner that serious violations of policy and criminal behavior will not be tolerated in our professional juvenile justice workplace. By now it should be obvious there’s a serious crackdown on staff misconduct and policy violations well underway throughout the agency,” said Niles.


This termination announcement is the latest in a running series of sweeping DJJ personnel actions. The Commissioner’s’ core message emphasizes that the critical duties of the Department of Juvenile Justice are to uphold and enforce policy, ethics, and safety and security measures at Georgia’s juvenile justice facilities so that both DJJ staff and the youth assigned to our care can function in a safe and secure learning environment.


“I’ll continue to fast-track similar dismissals and use other corrective measures wherever I see they’re needed,” said DJJ Commissioner. Niles. “These DJJ Policies are all about accountability and responsibility. There is positively no room at this agency for these violations of trust and employee misconduct. I will continue to repeat that message and I will continue to authorize employee dismissal letters until that message gets through.”


To all employees of the Department of Juvenile Justice, and the contractors that work at our side, thank you for the great work that you do as representatives of the Great State of Georgia. Your hard work and dedication is the key to success of our organization. I consider this week to be very special because it is Employee Recognition Week. This week also includes special recognition days for Educators, Nurses, and Correctional Officers.

This Department successfully operates 28 Secure Facilities and over 90 Court Service Offices around the state. We have approximately 1,900 youth in those Facilities and around 15,000 under supervision with our Community Services. We would not be able to provide the level of security to the residents of Georgia and the level of service to the youth that are in our care without your dedication and professionalism.

The success of this Department is not simply based on having well planned, well organized, functional facilities and equipment. It is not based on the fact that we have an excellent Information Technology System in place with modernized hardware. It is not based on the fact that we have well stocked medical clinics and kitchen equipment. This Department’s success is determined by the hard work and dedication of this staff to doing the job to the best of your ability every day when you come to work. Your positive attitudes and your spirit of accomplishment are what set this agency above others. These attributes are critical to maintaining your sense of accomplishment as we go through the daily process of securing, educating, and developing the youth that are in our care.

This is hard work that you have chosen to be a part of. I want to take this opportunity to personally thank each and every one of you for the dedication that you show to our State, to the youth, to each other, and to the Department of Juvenile Justice. As I have visited our various locations, I marvel at the pride and enthusiasm you exhibited. I have seen your responses to our recent Employee Satisfaction Survey and in it, you were very vocal about your pride in working for DJJ and your sincere desire to make a difference in the lives of the youth we serve.

This Employee Recognition Week is a special time to acknowledge the accomplishments that all of you have achieved during the course of the past year. Thank you again for your service and your dedication.

I am proud to be a member of your team and to have the privilege of leading you as we move forward in implementing the Juvenile Justice Reform Act that was signed by Governor Deal last week. His leadership and vision have charted a path for how we will make adjustments as we move ahead. Again, thank you for your dedicated service and we look forward to a bright future for you and DJJ.


Avery D. Niles,


GA Department of Juvenile Justice

DJJ COMMISSIONER’S STATEMENT: On the Passage of the Juvenile Justice Reform Bill in the Senate

Today, Department of Juvenile Justice Commissioner Avery D. Niles congratulated Governor Nathan Deal on the passage of Georgia’s juvenile justice reform legislation in the Senate. Based on the recommendations of a special panel convened by Governor Deal, the goal of the legislation is to reduce the number of repeat juvenile offenders and bring down costs.

The reforms will provide judges with more discretion in juvenile case sentencing; offer more drug and mental health counseling; and place more emphasis on local community-based outreach programs rather than commitment to detention centers for non-violent juvenile offenders.

Commissioner Niles made the following statement regarding the passage of the Juvenile Justice Reform Bill in the Senate:

“This bill represents landmark reform and positive change for the Georgia juvenile justice system if it passes. First the legislation passed by unanimous vote in the Georgia House. Now it has passed in the Senate by another unanimous vote. The reform bill speaks volumes about Governor Nathan Deal’s leadership and his commitment to improving the lives of Georgia’s youth. We thank both the Special Council on Justice Reform for their dedication and the bill sponsors in the House and Senate. Now, HB 242 transfers back to the House for approval of some changes made in the Senate Judiciary committee.”

Avery D. Niles,


GA Department of Juvenile Justice


Deal, First Lady declare April 'Child Abuse Prevention Awareness' month

At a news conference on March 25th, Gov. Nathan Deal presented a proclamation to First Lady Sandra Deal declaring April as "Child Abuse Prevention Awareness" month. First Lady Deal also announced additional members to the Georgia's Children's Cabinet, which she serves as chair, and the creation of the Governor's Office for Children & Families Advocacy Council.

As Commissioner of DJJ, I am proud to be part of this fantastic group working together to end child abuse and neglect in Georgia. Together, we will make the state a better place for all children.


Commissioner's Survey Message

Hello, I’m Avery D. Niles and it is an honor to serve as Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice. It is early in my tenure as your Commissioner and I need your help and feedback. This message is about how you can help me shape the future of this agency.

Our own Office of Human Resources has developed an Employee Satisfaction Survey to ensure that you have the opportunity to express your concerns about the workplace.

This department is committed to ensuring that DJJ Staff are working in a safe, positive, and productive work environment.

Employees concerns, expressed in the survey, will be considered during the Strategic Planning process. An in-depth analysis of your professional perspectives will allow us to have a better understanding of recruitment, retention, professional development and succession planning initiatives. So I encourage you to participate in DJJ’s Employee Satisfaction Survey.

My message to our DJJ Family is “One Team” and together we will continue to make a difference in our service to the State of Georgia by protecting its citizens and by supporting youth in their communities to become productive and law-abiding citizens.

I’m encouraging each of you to take time from your busy schedules to complete the Employee Satisfaction Survey and I thank you for your support of this project. The survey will be open from February 28th – March 19th.

You may access the survey by clicking the following link:

If you have any questions or concerns regarding the survey, please contact the Employment Relations/EEO Section at 404-508-7256/6646.

Thanks for all you do!!!
“One Team”


Avery D. Niles, Commissioner
Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice


Take the Survey...

Commissioner Niles' Top 5 Priorities

1. Operate Safe, Secure Facilities and Communities

– DJJ’s number one objective is public safety, whether for youth in  custody, our staff, or the community.

2. Juvenile Justice Reform

- HB 242 is the legislation driving Juvenile Justice Reform in Georgia.  This legislation places   specific requirements on DJJ, including modification of agency assessment instruments, utilization of evidence-based contracting, and exploration of Title IV-E benefits.  This bill is available online for full review.

3. Recruitment, Retention, and Succession Planning

– Recruiting and retaining quality staff and training the future agency leaders.

4. Classification and Placement of Youth

– Ensuring that young offenders are properly classified, that their needs are addressed, and they receive appropriate placement.


5. Offender/Youth Reentry

- Developing a mechanism to teach and provide youth with the needed skills to successfully re-integrate into the community to avoid further DJJ detention or DOC incarceration.


DJJ News