Editorial

7/18/2013

Fired staffers need steeper consequences

The Georgia Department of Corrections should not end its investigation of the state's Youth Detention Center in DeKalb County simply with the dismissal of the juvenile facility's night staff. Three resigned as soon as the state investigation got underway and four others were terminated during or after the process.

The accusations and subsequent state investigation stem from a finding by the U.S. Department of Justice. What it discovered led to declaring the detention center one of the worst in the nation. More youths reported sexual encounters with adults or others their age than anywhere else.

That prompted the state to look into the matter with both eyes. It is not saying, at this time, what it found, but whatever it stumbled upon, it was bad enough for it to terminate four staffers.

If the probe turned up any impropriety, the state is duty-bound to prosecute those involved, especially adult supervisors, to the fullest extent of the law. This is the 21st century, not the era that inspired such Hollywood fantasies as "Cool Hand Luke." Prisons and detention centers are not free to do whatever they want with the charges in their control. That includes teenagers.

Most of these youth come from troubled pasts, which is partly or wholly to blame for the reason they are in detention in the first place. They don't need perverted adults making conditions or the road to the future any more difficult for them than it already is.

The Department of Corrections needs to impress that upon adult predators who would prey on children who have no place to run or hide. Their consequences must be more than the loss of a job.

If for no other reason, they must pay the price as a warning to others. This includes those who had nothing to do with these molestations but allowed them to go on by failing to report it to those higher up.

The state's recidivism rate is high enough without exposure to morally deficit, corrupt adults who are supposed to be rehabilitating these youth.