Macon Youth Development Campus: Seven Challenges Graduation Program DJJ Staff  at:  10/28/2015  

Macon Youth Development Campus: Seven Challenges Graduation Program

Story support by Macon YDC's Janan Luecke

Earlier this month, six students at the Macon Youth Development Campus successfully completed the Seven Challenges Substance Abuse Treatment Program and were honored with a graduation ceremony. The focus of the Seven Challenges Program is “Challenging ourselves to make wise decisions about alcohol and other drugs.” The speaker for the occasion was Reverend Danny A. Horne, Director of Chaplaincy Services for the Department of Juvenile Justice. Other participants were students currently enrolled in the program and Macon YDC Staff. Graduates presented the welcome, prayer, reflections of the program, and benediction. One student wrote a poem called “Drug Free,” and presented it at the program.

Several parents and other family members came to celebrate the accomplishments of the students. The youth received additional encouraging words from Macon YDC Facility Director Sherry Shoats, Substance Abuse Treatment Services Administrator John Izzo, Macon YDC Assistant Director Dexter King, and Social Services Coordinator David Stanley. Also, in attendance was Marsha Heard, OBHS Regional Administrator. The students received certificates, took pictures, and were given an elaborate reception. The program was coordinated and organized by Gloria Riggins, Substance Abuse Counselor at the Macon YDC.





     Thomas County Court Services Office: 9th Annual CLCP Literacy Fair DJJ Staff  at:  10/27/2015  

Thomas County Court Services Office: 9th Annual CLCP Literacy Fair

Story by District Ten Director Laura Pike

The Thomas County Certified Literate Community Program (CLCP), a consortium of literacy providers and other friends of literacy, held their 9th Annual Literacy Fair on Thursday, October 22th 2015, to raise awareness of local efforts to combat illiteracy. Last year, more than three hundred children and their parents enjoyed an evening of reading inspired activities and local vendors. Many local agencies, including public schools, mental health agencies, law enforcement, and several state agencies (including the Thomas County Health Dept., Thomas County Public Library, and Department of Family & Children Services) gathered in the parking lot of the public library to distribute literature about their specific organizations.

Board Members: Beth Price; Ellen Terrell; Laura S. Pike, District Director/District 10

Members of the CLCP Board in Thomas County (2nd from Left is Nancy Tillinghast – Director, Thomas County Public Library)

Thomas County Certified Literate Community Program (CLCP) provides many benefits to the community, including adding community credibility for economic development, donating books into homes and schools, joining partnerships, GED scholarships, and bringing guest readers into the community to give children the opportunity to experience literacy in different and enjoyable ways.

The rates of illiteracy in the area have declined to nineteen percent and the CLCP wants to lower this even more. Local organizations are working hard to increase literacy levels in the areas of reading, financial, health, workforce management, and education.

JPPS III Janie Holton; Thomas County SO Deputy Leila Spires; DD Laura Pike; JPM Shalonda Brinson

Laura S. Pike, DD/10 and Kathy Megahee, Executive Director Thomas County Family Connections with Thomasville Fire Department members

Nancy Tillinghast, Director of Thomas County Library, has been involved with the CLCP for more than eight years and finds the importance of increasing literacy in the community to be imperative.

Activities sponsored by the various organizations at the Literacy Fair included free food, games, drawings, and other enjoyable activities for children and adults. A delightful Storybook Character Contest was one of the top highlights of the evening. District Director Laura S. Pike was dressed as a Pirate Maiden and led the children through the Judges’ Maze for the contest.

JPPS III Janie Holton/Thomas HITS

JPPS Freddie Robinson, DD Laura Pike, JPPS Vanessa Dawson

JPPS Vanessa Dawson; DD Laura S. Pike; Smoky the Bear; JPPS Lisa Owens; JPPS John Young; JPM Shalonda Brinson; JPPS Janie Holton

Several DJJ employees participated in the Literacy Fair, including JPPS I Freddie Robinson, JPPS I John Young; JPPS III Janie Holton, JPPS II Vanessa Dawson, JPPS II Lisa Owens, JPM Shalonda Brinson and DD Laura S. Pike (Board Member). The experience provided a great opportunity for DJJ youth to complete community service hours but also gave them a sense of unity with other community members. DJJ staff members are committed to participating in Community Events that provide rewarding opportunities for our youth.





     District Ten in the Community: Dinner on the Bricks DJJ Staff  at:  10/27/2015  

District Ten in the Community: Dinner on the Bricks

A key component of Governor Nathan Deal's Juvenile Justice Reform involves community involvement in working with local at-risk youth. In order for society to be able to reintegrate youth from the juvenile justice system back into their homes and schools, a concerted effort must be engaged by citizens, governments, schools, and private entities together. An "all hands on deck" approach is needed to ensure that our youth are properly engaged and do not fall through the cracks when they come back to their home communities and schools.

Kendra Reeves - educator, Kathy Megahee – Family Connections Director; Ralph Comerford – Vashti CEO; Melanie Comerford; Laura S. Pike, District Director, District 10; Kat Comerford

At the Department of Juvenile Justice, this dedication to youth integration is taken very seriously, whether on the job working or off the clock. Helping our youth is a 24-hour a day passion for many at DJJ.

On the forefront of DJJ's Commitment to Caring is District Ten in Southwest Georgia. District Director Laura Pike is heavily involved in all aspects of working in her community and is on the Stakeholder Board for the Vashti Center, a residential treatment and community services center for emotionally disturbed children and youth in the Thomasville area.

Recently, the Vashti Center held their 2nd Annual Dinner on the Bricks fundraising event and the DJJ District Ten Team was on the front lines of helping for this great organization. Below is District Director Laura Pike's report from this year's event. For more information about the Vashti Center, visit them on the web at

District Ten wishes to give a big shout-out to the City of Thomasville for graciously accommodating The Vashti Center's Dinner On The Bricks annual event. Thanks to the city, Vashti was able to raise funding for and community awareness of the needs of some of our most vulnerable, at-risk youth. On September 26th, patrons gathered with their friends, family, and co-workers to dine on the historic bricks of Thomasville downtown area. Tables of eight were sold with all proceeds benefiting the children. Creativity in table design/patron costumes was also part of the fun with awards in various categories presented to winners by local celebrity judges.

Mrs. William McIntosh; Juvenile Court Judge William McIntosh; Laura S. Pike, District Director, District 10; Kathy Megahee, Family Connections Director

This was an amazing evening of fellowship on the bricks for both our beautiful downtown and the over two hundred children (and their families in our community) helped by those supporting Vashti's Dinner on the Bricks. We raised over $15, 0000 from the table sponsors alone and individual donations are still coming in.

100% of the proceeds from this event will benefit programs that fulfill the spiritual, physical and mental health needs of children served by Vashti. As provider of residential and community mental health services for children and youth from 6 to 17 years of age, Vashti receives broken spirits into its care each day.

Many of the Vashti youth come to the Residential Care Program from DFCS and the Juvenile Justice System and carry heavy burdens from abuse and neglect. The good news is that many lives are transformed because of the outstanding counseling and spiritual assistance provided by the caring team of childcare workers, experienced therapists, trained mentors, resident chaplain and special school resource officers.

Last year, sixty-four children were served in Residential Care (located on the East Clay Street campus) and two hundred-fifty children and their families through the Community Mental Health Program serving Thomas, Brooks, Colquitt, Decatur, Grady, and Mitchell Counties. The mission of the Vashti Center is to provide children, youth and families with resources necessary to grow physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Their goal is to change destructive behavior patterns, establish new behaviors, develop coping skills, to promote increased self-esteem, to establish more appropriate perceptions of self and others, and to enjoy life to the fullest.





     2015 Office of Continuous Improvement Awards DJJ Staff  at:  10/26/2015  

2015 Office of Continuous Improvement Awards

The primary objective of the Office of Continuous Improvement (OCI) is to determine the level of performance and quality of services provided in facilities and programs operated by DJJ and through contract providers. The multi-disciplinary team approach is a part of the methodology used to conduct quality assurance evaluations, including contract monitoring.

Recently, OCI conducted yearly evaluations at the Augusta Regional Youth Detention Center (Augusta RYDC), Rockdale Regional Youth Detention Center (Rockdale RYDC), and the Eastman Youth Development Campus (Eastman YDC). Below are the stories of some the star performers from the OCI evaluations. Special thanks to OCI Director Chris Saxton and his team's work over the past year.

Rockdale RYDC

Certificate of Excellence – Sergeant Marvin Talley

Sergeant Talley was awarded the Certificate of Excellence for his performance and customer service during the evaluation of the Rockdale RYDC. Sergeant Talley had been assigned many responsibilities including Key Control and Tool Control which he handled successfully. During the evaluation, Sergeant Talley was the go-to man and was able to answer questions, facilitate procedures, and provide much of the needed documentation across a range of standard areas. The fact that he did so professionally and with a positive attitude led to his Certificate of Excellence.

Eastman YDC

Compliance Award – Food Service Staff
Presented to Deb McDuffie, Food Service Manager

This Food Service staff at the Eastman YDC was presented with the Compliance Award for having the smallest percentage of total non-compliant ratings during the Comprehensive Evaluation. Better yet, the few areas found to be non-compliant were generally of a procedural nature which are easily corrected. During the evaluation, Food Service staff displayed positive attitudes, friendly demeanor, and pride taken in a job well done.

Facility Operations Award – Medical Services Staff
Presented to Buddy Pittman, Nurse Manager, DHA

The Facility Operations Award was presented to the Medical Services staff for recognition of their hard work in continuing to provide quality care and services to the youth of Eastman YDC, doing so successfully while operating within the constraints of safety and security.

Above and Beyond Award – Lisa Hightower

This award was presented for exceptional customer service during the Comprehensive Evaluation of the Eastman YDC. Ms. Hightower consistently exhibited a positive attitude, ready smile, and promptly provided requested documentation and information. Ms. Hightower regularly checked in with the team to ensure information was received and needs were met. Her kindness, consideration, and attention was greatly appreciated by all with the Evaluation Team.

Augusta RYDC

Customer Service Award - Sergeant Latoya Ballard

Sergeant Ballard was presented with the Customer Service Award for her exceptional customer service throughout the course the OCI Audit week. She provided undivided attention and care to the process while displaying a strong work ethic and a dedication to making sure the OCI evaluation was conducted as smoothly as possible. While helping to ensure that the August RYDC team was fully cooperative with the collaborative process, Sergeant Ballard maintained steady grace with a pleasant attitude. She also always checked in on the Evaluation Team to see if anything else was needed to accomplish the audit process. While coming to work early and staying late, Sergeant Ballard's customer service and professional demeanor was exemplary.

Compliance Award – GPA Staff
Presented to Dr. Carol Spurgeon- Lead Teacher

The education department was awarded the compliance award for having the smallest percentage of total non-compliant ratings during the Comprehensive Evaluation. The Georgia Preparatory Academy staff, led by Dr. Spurgeon, provided comprehensive and engaging educational services to the youth while maintaining safety and security at the Augusta RYDC. They have been able to continue to provide excellent educational services in the face of a rapidly changing population while ensuring that the needs of individual youth are met on a daily basis.

Customer Service Award - Mary Jane Bonner

Ms. Mary Jane Bonner provided exceptional customer service throughout the course the OCI Audit week. She worked diligently with the Augusta RYDC staff to ensure that all documentation was compiled in a timely manner. She greeted the team every day with a warm smile and bright attitude, as she did with Augusta RYDC staff coming into work. She was ready, willing, and engaged in answering any questions that needed. She worked side by side with several of the team members in designated areas to ensure that the standards were evaluated and completed.





     DJJ Theology Internship Program: Central Office Presentations DJJ Staff  at:  10/23/2015  


DJJ Story by Lisa Kenn

Earlier this month, the Department of Juvenile Justice hosted Emory University Candler School of Theology student interns for a special speaker presentation at the Central Office Headquarters in Decatur. The interns, helping to serve the youth at the Metro Regional Youth Detention Center (Metro RYDC) as part of the Chaplaincy Department, were in attendance as author Desiree Long and public speaker Aakeem Woodard shared their life experiences of the trauma of being incarcerated and how their personal faith carried each through the difficult times to a brighter future as successful members of society.

For Desiree Lee, on her way to college after high school with a 3.8 GPA and basketball scholarship, a foolish split minute decision took away a future that she had been planning for her entire life. Acting as a “get-away” driver for a crime being perpetrated by her friends, Ms. Lee found herself in jail charged with eleven counts of Armed Robbery, five counts of Aggravated Assault, and the desperation that comes with the possibility of spending 135 years in prison.

Despite the dire circumstances, Desiree Lee preserved and succeeded because of her strong faith. While the difficulties of incarceration and as a post-release designated felon were almost overwhelming, Ms. Lee’s faith allowed her to find answers within herself to become a self-published author, public speaker, and successful business woman. It is because of her faith that Ms. Lee believes that everyone can find their place in the world and that, while sometimes difficult, those who help such as the theology students can make a huge difference in the lives of individual youth.

Likewise, Akeem Woodard has had tough experiences being incarcerated, but, unlike Ms. Lee, his confinement was an integral part to his entire life; becoming a convicted felon at the age of fifteen, Akeem Woodard spent over twenty-five years of his life in prison. A high school dropout and armed robber and murderer by his teens, Akeem Woodard lived a life that was headed for bad results almost from the start.

Oddly enough, it was while in prison that the faith that turned Akeem Woodard’s life around began to grow. A compelling speaker, Mr. Woodard spoke of his realization that he and many of the young men in prison were comfortable following the crowd and even felt at home in prison, as if they were a family and had a sense of community. At some point during his incarceration, Mr. Woodard questioned the meaning of his existence and found that he was not ready to accept a life of pain and darkness in prison.

When Mr. Woodard was ready to seek a higher meaning for his life, he was able to openly accept counsel through the chaplain’s office of his prison. As a professional speaker, a religious leader, and a formerly incarcerated felon, Mr. Woodard drove home the point with the theology students that they should not “preach” scripture to inmates but help them learn how to live a moral and productive life through their teachings.

The Emory Candler School of Theology student interns enjoyed Ms. Lee and Mr. Woodard sharing their unique experiences and perspectives. Many of the students felt they gained valuable advice on how to assist and counsel the youth that they are working with at Metro RYDC. Chaplain Horne and DJJ were honored to host such an interesting forum for the Emory Candler School of Theology and thank Ms. Lee and Mr. Woodard for inspiring the interns in their work at the Metro RYDC.

Special thanks to Chaplain Danny Horne for his support of the Chaplaincy Intern Program. For more information, visit .





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