GGIA Gang Training Event with DJJ DJJ Staff  at:  7/12/2012  
Views from the Georgia Gang Investigators Association (GGIA) Gang Training


DJJ Commissioner L. Gale Buckner (pictured with DJJ Deputy Commissioner Sarah Draper and GGIA Secretary Lisa Casey Bryson) received a plaque from the Georgia Gang Investigators Association honoring her and DJJ for supporting statewide education and training for all Georgia law enforcement

On July 9th the Department of Juvenile Justice partnered with the Georgia Gang Investigators Association (GGIA) for a day-long gang training event where Georgia experts shared years of street survival insights.

GGIA President Marco Silva presented DJJ Commissioner L. Gale Buckner with a plaque to honor her and the Department of Juvenile Justice for supporting statewide education and training for all Georgia law enforcement. Since her arrival at DJJ in November of 2011, Commissioner Buckner has been instrumental in moving the juvenile justice agency forward in its efforts to combat institutional gang issues. Commissioner Buckner's support and willingness to work with GGIA has enabled the gang investigator's organization to increase its visibility and effectiveness in reaching its mission.

"The biggest mistake law enforcement can make is to label juveniles as gang wannabe's.  If those juveniles think they're gang members, then they are gang members.. and law enforcement better be prepared for them to act like gang members. Because gang members sell fear and violence -- Because without violence, gangs are not effective."

DJJ sponsored the "Basic Gangs and Youth" program at the Georgia Public Safety Training Center in Forsyth. The conference brought in more than 400 participants from the Department of Corrections, Pardons and Parole, and Department of Juvenile Justice, along with local law enforcement officers from police and sheriff's offices across the state.

"Young people are drawn to gangs by the promise of girls, guns, and drugs.. They think gangs can provide them with the things they value most -- expensive sneakers, gold rings, and leather jackets.. They're looking for acceptance, protection, parties, power and respect.. That's what gangs provide."

Audience at the Georgia Gang Investigators Association Conference

GGIA experts taught sessions on Basic Street Gang Identification, Collecting and Evaluating Street Gang Intelligence and Identifying and Translating Street Gang Graffiti. The mission of the Georgia Gang Investigators Association is to promote a free exchange of intelligence and information among investigators.  Its goal is to effectively impact on the level of gang-related violence perpetrated by criminal groups whose actions adversely affect and constitute a threat to public order.  Timely conference topics included Youth Gangs in Correctional Settings, Girls and Gangs, and Latino and Hispanic Street and Youth Gangs.

"Gangs promise to take the place of family and to take care of their members just like family.  They mark their members with beat-ins, tattoos, nicknames and colors. What draws young people to gangs? Gang life is La Vida Loca.   Unlike ordinary teen life, gang life is never boring."

The Georgia Gang Investigators Association (GGIA), was founded in 1998, as the organization to combat the increase in gang violence in Georgia. As a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, GGIA assists with training not only to law enforcement personnel, but for schools officials, students, public workers, and citizens of Georgia. Providing the three (3) R's "Record It, Report It, and Remove It", reminds citizens to take control of their community. For more information about the Georgia Gang Investigators Association, visit them on the web at

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     DJJ Board News: Chairman Niles Appointed by Governor to Special Court Committee DJJ Staff  at:  6/29/2012  
DJJ Board News:  Chairman Niles Appointed by Governor to Special Court Committee

Department of Juvenile Justice Commissioner L. Gale Buckner is pleased to announce that DJJ Board Chairman Avery Niles has been selected by Governor Nathan Deal as one of five appointees to serve on Georgia’s Accountability Court Funding Committee.

The committee, created by an executive order signed last month, is charged with determining the funding priorities for alternative courts.  The committee will meet until June of next year. Governor Deal included $10 million in funds from his 2013 budget for the creation of new accountability courts.

In a statement issued through a Hall County government news release, Chairman Niles said, ““With the high cost of housing nonviolent prisoners in our institutions throughout the state, I can’t think of a better way to rehabilitate individuals, reduce recidivism, and stretch tax dollars than through the expansion of accountability courts.”

Many states have adopted the use of accountability courts in response to the costly cycle of housing non-violent prisoners.  Studies indicate accountability courts are a cost effective alternative to sentencing and in some cases have produced better results when compared to traditional sentencing options such as incarceration and probation.  This year state lawmakers passed Georgia’s law giving judges more latitude in passing sentences. 

The difference in the Accountability Courts program occurs after conviction.  Instead of sentencing offenders to a state prison or other residential correctional center, local judges and a team of professionals create a program where the offender can receive treatment while being supervised in the community.  Repeated rule violations are not tolerated.  Offenders know if they do not strictly follow the program rules, they will be sent to prison to serve a traditional sentence.

That possibility of serving a traditional sentence is a good motivator for accountability court participants. The combination of judicial monitoring and constant interaction with participants has resulted in graduates of accountability courts programs being less likely to become repeat offenders.

The Accountability Court Funding Committee is composed of nine members. The governor appoints five, which include a chairman and  a co-chairman.  DJJ Board Chairman Avery Niles, who is warden of the Hall County Correctional Institution, was one of two Hall County officials appointed to the committee.  Hall County Superior Court Judge Kathlene Gosselin was named to the committee by Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice George H. Carley.

Department of Juvenile Justice Commissioner L. Gale Buckner congratulated Chairman Niles on his appointment at the June DJJ Board meeting.  Commissioner Buckner said, “We should point out that out of the nine members appointed for this important task, Chairman Niles is the only committee member named who was not a judge.   We are very pleased to share the Chairman’s expertise in this area where his experience and judgment can help the State of Georgia provide new programs that have a substantial impact reducing recidivism, increasing rehabilitation, and protecting the public from harm.” 

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     DJJ Commissioner Announces Agency Restructuring and Promotions DJJ Staff  at:  6/29/2012  

DJJ Commissioner Announces Agency Restructuring and Promotions

Effective July 1st, 2012, Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice Commissioner L. Gale Buckner announces plans for an overhaul of the organizational structure of DJJ’s Central Office in Decatur. This week the Commissioner informed DJJ Staff statewide that the latest phase of her restructuring strategy creates a new management working model that more effectively and efficiently meets the agency’s needs to perform its special public safety mission for the State of Georgia.  

“These organizational changes will enable us to better focus on three primary target areas of juvenile justice responsibilities: safety and security, education and programming, and community services,” said Commissioner Buckner.

As part of the Central Office realignment, the Commissioner authorized two top level Executive Staff advancements. Commissioner Buckner is pleased to announce the promotion of DJJ Director of Investigations Sarah Draper, to the newly created position of Deputy Commissioner over Secure Facilities.

Commissioner Buckner is also pleased to announce the promotion of DJJ Behavioral Health Services Director Miguel Fernandez, to the position of Assistant Deputy Commissioner of Programs and Education under Deputy Commissioner Richard Harrison.

Deputy Commissioner Richard Harrison will remain in his current position with management over DJJ Programs and Education.

Commissioner Buckner’s new management strategy will place accountability for safety and security of DJJ facilities under newly appointed Deputy Commissioner Sarah Draper.

Administration of DJJ Community Services will be focused under the direction of Deputy Commissioner Carl Brown. This adjustment is designed for the agency to place more focus on the tasks of Placements, Field Operations and Case Expediters in the new DJJ Division of Community Services.

Before this change in the DJJ organizational chart, the duties for both Secure Facilities and Community Services were all stacked under the responsibility of one Deputy Commissioner. With these reassignments, realignments and promotions, Commissioner Buckner has redefined major responsibilities between Deputy Commissioners.

The Commissioner said many of her organizational changes at the management level were based on observations she made while troubleshooting agency challenges during her first seven months in office. 

“These are more of the system-wide adjustments I indicated would occur at the Department of Juvenile Justice as part of the fine-tuning process,” said Commissioner Buckner.  “I began with a task force for unscheduled inspections of all DJJ secure facilities and court service offices.  We continue to make return visits and update old policies.. And we’ll continue to tweak the agency org-charts where we find ways to make this system run smoother.”

Promoted to Deputy Commissioner this week, Sarah Draper has worked for the Department of Juvenile Justice since June of 2011. She came to DJJ from the Georgia Department of Corrections where she worked investigative management assignments, including Assistant Unit Manager, Deputy Director, and Director. From 1995 through 2011, Draper held DOC investigative unit management positions ranging from Special Investigations, Inmate Affairs and Appeals, Internal Investigations, and the Office of Investigations and Compliance.

Deputy Commissioner Draper has a Masters of Public Administration from Columbus State University and a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice from North Georgia College.  She graduated Georgia Law Enforcement Command College and attended the Corrections Leadership Institute at the Carl Vinson Institute of Government, University of Georgia.  She is a member of the Peace Officers Association of Georgia, the Georgia Gang Investigators Association, the Georgia Internal Affairs Investigators Association, and the national Association of Women Executives in Corrections.

DJJ’s newly appointed Assistant Deputy Commissioner, Miguel Fernandez has worked with this agency since 2004 when he was hired as the Assistant Director of the Office of Behavioral Health Services. Before coming to DJJ, Mr. Fernandez was state Director of Georgia’s Residential Substance Abuse Treatment programs.  He had previous DJJ experience as a Mental Health Coordinator at the Macon YDC in 2001.

He began his mental health and case management work in 1990 in a crisis stabilization unit in Tallahassee, FL, while working on his Master’s degree.  From 1993 to 1998 he worked at the Adult Psychiatry and Alcohol and Drug Detoxification Units of the Miami VA Medical Center. In 1999, Mr. Fernandez began working with children and adolescents as a mental health and substance abuse clinician at Hillside Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia.

He received his Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Florida State University in 1990 and his Master’s in Social Work from the FSU School of Social Work in 1993.  Mr. Fernandez became a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in 1995 in the State of Florida and again in the State of Georgia in 1998.  He became a Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor in the year 2000.

Commissioner Buckner congratulated DJJ’s newest Deputy Commissioner Draper and Assistant Deputy Commissioner Fernandez and challenged them to help the agency achieve its mission to protect and serve the citizens of Georgia while assisting young offenders in becoming productive and law-abiding citizens.




     Gangs 101: What You Need to Know DJJ Staff  at:  6/28/2012  


Gang activity is a growing problem for the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ).
To be stopped, it must first be recognized. Whether it is graffiti tagging on buildings, an upsurge in resident contraband, or the motive behind youth-on-youth violence, signs of gang presence appear daily in our facilities and among our youth.

The power of gangs is generated from scare tactics and failure to recognize the warning signs of gang activity.
That is how gangs become a serious risk to the safety, security, and well-being of DJJ residents, staff, and the public. Through education, we can help de-escalate Georgia's growing gang violence problem.

View more at:


     Scenes from the Thomas CSO/HITS Blood Drive DJJ Staff  at:  7/5/2012  

Thomas CSO Team Members Laura Pike, JPM and Janie Holton, JPPS I meet with Claire Bowen from the Southeastern Community Blood Center as part of the HITS Blood Drive at DJJ

In communities across Georgia, local blood drives provide a necessary and critical supply of blood to hospitals and clinics throughout the state.  Usually organized by volunteer civic groups, these blood drives require a high degree of planning in order to be well run. Volunteers must be trained and schedules must be followed diligently in order to provide the proper environment, for the donors willing to give their blood. Blood Center professionals are responsible for the health and safety concerns involved with removing and transporting the blood. In short, volunteers and medical professionals need to work as a team to pull off a successful blood drive. No one thinks about a group of teenagers having all that needed responsibility.

Dustin Beason giving his all for the Blood Drive

So, it is understandable that on the afternoon of June 14th, staff members of the Southeastern Community Blood Center were proud to park their Blood Mobile in the parking lot of the Thomas County Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ). Working together with the youth of HITS, the High Intensity Team Program, they showed that no challenge was too large for a successful blood drive sponsored by the youth of DJJ Thomasville.

Terrick Clark fills out some paperwork as part of his duties for the Blood Drive

The Thomas County Blood Drive was the service learning project for HITS youth for the month of June.  The HITS Team is made up of DJJ employees Marla Morris, JPPS III, Janie Holton, JPPS I, and Pat Walden, JPPS I.  The Thomasville office is under the supervision of Laura S. Pike, JPM.


Todd Jones, JPPS II, Thomas CSO

As part of the blood drive, HITS youth were responsible for recruiting volunteers to donate blood as well as donating blood themselves.  Each youth received community service hours for their participation in the blood drive.

Organizers said the HITS youth displayed a maturity and understanding well beyond their years while participating.  Since very few of the students had ever donated blood before this drive, it was a learning experience and for some a show of bravery, for those helping the medical professionals. Giving blood can take upwards of an hour to complete. The DJJ Team said all the Thomasville youth displayed patience and were enthusiastic and dedicated to the worthy cause.  Their behavior and responsibility during the blood drive made everyone associated with the Thomas County DJJ proud.


Pat Walden, JPPS II , Thomas CSO

Despite a heavy rain, there was a high turnout for the blood drive and it was run with precision.  According to Claire Bowen, representative for the Southeastern Community Blood Center, the Thomas County Blood Drive was a great success and she looks forward to making it an annual event with the Department of Juvenile Justice.

“It was great to work with everyone at the Department of Juvenile Justice in coordinating the blood drive and we hope that we can continue to have more drives in the future. It is wonderful to see that young people are getting involved and helping the community.  We hope that this will be an experience they will continue to take part in and eventually pass on to their own children.”  Claire Bowen, Southeastern Community Blood Center

The Department of Juvenile Justice is proud of our HITS youth and Thomas County workers who came together for this worthwhile cause




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