The Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) held groundbreaking ceremonies for the state juvenile justice system’s new Wilkes Regional Youth Detention Center (RYDC) in Washington, Georgia on October 11. The Wilkes RYDC will be located at 1430 Industrial Park Road in Washington.
At the event, DJJ Commissioner Avery D. Niles stated, “The Wilkes RYDC groundbreaking marks an employment milestone for this area of east-central Georgia, generating 60 new jobs for teachers, nurses and juvenile corrections officers.”
DJJ Commissioner Avery D. Niles at the Wilkes RYDC groundbreaking with State Representative Tom McCall
Facility prep work has already begun at the new Wilkes RYDC
Dignitaries at the Wilkes RYDC immediately before the groundbreaking
The new RYDC will repurpose a former Georgia Department of Corrections adult pre-release center and will incorporate a secure facility redesign. When it is completed the Wilkes RYDC will become a showcase for new Georgia juvenile justice programming.
Under the redesign plan, the Wilkes RYDC will include 30,000 square feet of dormitory space to securely accommodate a population of 40 male and 8 female juvenile offenders. Another 6,000 square feet has been allocated for a gymnasium. The Wilkes RYDC will demonstrate DJJ’s added emphasis on education and technology with 1,200 square feet designated for a new vocational education section.
DJJ Commissioner Avery D. Niles addresses the crowd at the Wilkes RYDC groundbreaking
DJJ Chief of Staff Mark Sexton
DJJ Chaplain Danny Horne
DJJ Deputy Commissioner Shawanda Reynolds-Cobb
DJJ Board Member Willie Bolton
“The new design shows we are always thinking about preparing young offenders for reentry into their communities as responsible and law-abiding citizens,” said Commissioner Niles.
The Wilkes RYDC will also incorporate enhanced security measures as part of DJJ’s mission to ensure public safety, including CCTV surveillance, touch-screen security controls and the addition of upgraded perimeter fencing.
A number of community leaders and local elected officials attended the groundbreaking. Among them were representatives of the Washington-Wilkes Chamber of Commerce, Wilkes County Commission Chair Sam Moore, Washington Mayor Ames Barnett, Toombs Judicial Circuit Juvenile Court Judges Britt Hammond and Jaye Jones. Among the state legislators participating were Representatives Barry Fleming, Tom McCall and Trey Rhodes, as well as State Senator Bill Jackson.
Georgia State Senator Bill Jackson
Wilkes County Commission Chair Sam Moore
Statewide and local leadership at the Wilkes RYDC groundbreaking
Washington Mayor Ames Barnett
Representative Trey Rhodes
Toombs Judicial Circuit Juvenile Court Judge Britt Hammond
Commissioner Niles said, “We’re grateful to Governor Nathan Deal, the General Assembly and the citizens of Georgia for supporting our mission and this project. In particular, Senator Bill Jackson has spearheaded this project for several years and we appreciate his leadership.”
In addition to a number of DJJ staff and citizens of Washington and Wilkes County who attended the groundbreaking festivities, DJJ Board Member Willie C. Bolton also was present. Bolton grew up in Rayle, a small town in Wilkes County. Bolton said, “I am proud that the Department of Juvenile Justice located this facility in Wilkes County. I know the citizens of the county will support DJJ in its efforts to help prepare the youth who pass through the Wilkes RYDC for the rest of their lives.”
Commissioner Niles concluded the event by inviting the elected officials and Bolton to help him with the ceremonial groundbreaking. The Wilkes RYDC is expected to open and be operational in late 2017.
Grading and clearing the land at the Wilkes RYDC
DJJ Commissioner Avery D. Niles speaks about the technological advances that will be used at the new Wilkes RYDC
A view from the outside at the Wilkes RYDC groundbreaking
Local residents and dignitaries applaud at the Wilkes RYDC groundbreaking
(Left to Right) Assistant Commissioner Keith Horton, Deputy Commissioner Joe Vignati and Director of Investigations Ricky Rich