MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) found that some Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) misconduct could’ve been investigated better, but found no evidence of underreporting or not reporting criminal activity, according to documents obtained by News13.
The investigation into the processes, conducted in August, looked into how criminal allegations are handled within state detention centers.
The SCDJJ Office of Inspector General is the agency that conducts those investigations. The investigators are assigned to five to ten cases a week.
Most incidents are allegations of juvenile-on-juvenile assaults, and use of force by juvenile correctional officers, according to the review. An investigation is required any time that a correctional officer uses force on a person who is incarcerated to determine if it was appropriate. Force most commonly happens when juveniles are restrained or separated when they’re in a fight and don’t obey a correctional officer’s commands.
Video is usually available for those cases, and the investigations tend to be “straightforward,” according to the documents. However, investigations into contraband, sexual assaults and assaults involving bodily fluids tend to be more in-depth.
But when it comes to those cases going through the justice system, there are additional challenges. Assault cases are “historically difficult to prosecute due to the lack of cooperation from witnesses,” according to the review.
The SLED investigation also found gaps in the interview system. There’s not a designated staff member to serve as a victim advocate or notify a juvenile’s family when they’re a victim, witness or the subject of an alleged incident. There’s also not a designated location to conduct interviews, which happen over the phone, on Google Teams, in a cubicle environment or in a communicable area.
This, the report states, is “problematic.”
Cases have been closed without a completed investigative report, and those reports are often riddled with grammatical issues and a “stunning lack of detail,” including only using one or two sentences from an interview instead of a more detailed account.
“Oftentimes an OIG investigative case file is not reflective of a professional law enforcement work project,” the report reads.
The SLED investigation found a “problematic” lack of communication between the OIG and certain solicitors’ offices, but there is no evidence of underreporting incidents.
The report suggests several improvements that can be made, which include filling the vacant inspector general position, improved communication amongst the SCDJJ, hiring a victim advocate, utilizing gang investigators, providing recording equipment and a private location to conduct interviews, advanced training, consistency in reporting case files, preserving video and strengthening communication with prosecutors.