SC DJJ workers walk off the job to protest long shifts, safety concerns

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSPA) – Some SC Dept. of Juvenile Justice workers are protesting long shifts and safety concerns Friday.

Security staff walked off at the facility on Broad River Rd. in Columbia around 7 am Friday. They said they are protesting the 24-36 hour shifts they say they’ve had to work. Teachers, who were supposed to work this morning, are also protesting, according to a 7News crew on scene.

Brittany Larkin is a Juvenile Correctional Officer at the Broad River Road Complex (BRRC). She said, “We protect the teachers, we protect the kids, we protect everybody that comes back here. At some point somebody has to protect us.”

One teacher said she doesn’t feel safe in the facility and wants to be out there to show support for the staff.

We previously reported that lawmakers were reviewing the DJJ after allegations of staffing shortages and increases in violence.

Senator Katrina Shealy (R-District 23) is the co-chair of the joint subcommittee that questioned DJJ Director Freddie Pough back in May. She spoke to DJJ workers that were protesting Friday morning.

She said upper level leadership should be outside addressing the crowd and their concerns.

Sen. Shealy said, “He (Dir. Pough) doesn’t need to call them in there one by one to talk to them. Man up, come out here and talk to your employees.”

Senate Corrections and Penology Committee Chairman Sen. Shane Martin (R-District 13) said Friday’s walkout shows a failure in leadership at the state agency.

Reached by phone Friday, he said the Governor needs to make a change at DJJ or get Director Pough more help. He said conversations with the Governor’s Office about SC DJJ in recent weeks have been like ‘pushing on a rope’.

After a hurricane preparedness press conference Friday morning, Governor Henry McMaster addressed the situation at SC DJJ. He said, “It’s good that we have people that are interested in making it better. Walking off the job is not the way to improve the situation. It puts people in grave danger right now.”

He went on to say the employees who walked out should walk back in.

At around 2 pm, Director Pough spoke to workers in the parking lot. He spent over an hour answering questions from staff who had walked off the job.

He said, “It’s unfortunate that this happened but staff felt the need to do this in this fashion. I am glad the dialogue has begun.”

Pough said they’ll be meeting with staff Friday to figure out plans to consolidate some of the juveniles in a larger dorm to ease the strain on JCOs.

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