COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) — South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) Acting Director Eden Hendrick told state lawmakers almost every aspect of what the troubled agency is doing will need to be reformed.
Director Hendrick spoke to a Senate Corrections and Penology subcommittee this week.
During that meeting, she shared what changes have been implemented in the last month. She also shared what changes they are hoping to do in the future as well.
According to Hendrick, the biggest problem they’re facing at DJJ right now is staffing. She told lawmakers at the Broad River Road Complex alone they have 74 open positions. As of this week, 76 employees were working there.
Director Hendrick said, “I’ll be honest the applicant pool is the main problem. Nobody is applying right now.”
She told lawmakers they are bringing on a recruiting company to boost recruiting efforts. They are hoping to fill the 232 vacant juvenile correctional officer (JCO) jobs they have open system wide.
When asked how long it could take to fill these positions, Director Hendrick said, “I’d like to be optimistic and say one to six months, but it could take a year, it could take more than that.”
Right now, the starting salary for a JCO at DJJ is $35,000. There are bonuses available and increase built in as well.
Director Hendrick said they are making changes to HR policies, restructuring some jobs, and working to build morale.
She said, “We have a long, long way to go. It didn’t become like this in the last four years. It got a little worse. DJJ needs to reform almost every aspect of what it’s doing.”
According to Director Hendrick, they have put regionalization on hold due to lack of manpower and are moving their administration offices behind the fence.
She said their goal is to reduce to use of isolation on juveniles under their watch.
Director Hendrick told lawmakers, “Our security staff thinks they are in a prison and they are there to be a police officer and provide discipline…They are there dealing with children who have made mistakes and have suffered a lot to get this point. I just think this is something everyone at DJJ needs to understand.”
Hendrick will serve as acting director until a permanent director is named by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate.