COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) — The South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice is on ‘the cusp of change’, according to Director Freddie Pough.
Members of a Senate Corrections and Penology subcommittee do not agree. The five Senators voted unanimously to give Director Pough a vote of ‘no-confidence.’
This came following a tense, five hour hearing Wednesday.
During the hearing, Pough told lawmakers he was not going to quit. He reaffirmed his commitment to the job and fixing the problems at the agency.
He said, “I’ve been working extremely hard to partner with the right people to fix this.”
Pough said the agency has been ailing for years. He went on to say, “At the end of the day, I understand that I’m in the chair. I understand all this starts and stops with me.”
After the meeting, Senator Katrina Shealy (R-District 23) said the ‘no-confidence’ vote was about pushing for change at the agency. She said, “We’re going to continue to put pressure on the Governor, the Director, whatever happens because something has to change.”
Since DJJ is a cabinet agency, the Governor is the only official who could fire a DJJ director.
Wednesday’s meeting came just a few days after some SC DJJ staff walked off the job last week.
According to Pough, following the walkout, they explored immediate solutions to the issues staff members were protesting.
“I’m trying to strike a balance between what the federal government wants us to do, what’s right and to keep everyone safe and that’s difficult,” he said.
Security at DJJ facilities said staffing shortages are putting everyone behind the fence in harm’s way. David Roberts is a captain at the Broad River Road Complex (BRRC) in Columbia. He said, “The human resource at DJJ is being abused.”
He said 24 hour shifts have been putting a strain on workers.
Director Pough told lawmakers they are looking to contract officers from a private company to work shifts until they can hire enough staff.
Senate Corrections and Penology Committee Chairman Sen. Shane Martin (R-District 13) said he has directed his Finance staff to come up with bonus plans for current DJJ employees.