Auditors Criticize DJJ's Management of Youth Prisons; Agency Lacks "Basic Information" on $40 Million Health-Care System

Article excerpt

Byline: BRIAN BASINGER, The Times-Union

ATLANTA -- The taxpayer-funded agency charged with running Georgia's youth prisons lacks "basic information needed to effectively and efficiently manage" its roughly $40 million health-care system, according to state auditors.

However, the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice says it has already begun working to improve the oversight and reduce the costs of its health-care programs, which serve nearly 55,000 youths each year.

The state Department of Audits and Accounts released a 40-page report earlier this month calling on the youth prison system to get a better handle on the medical, dental and mental-health services it provides.

While the audit found no problems in terms of the quality of health care being offered to the minors under the department's care, the review did note that improved data collection and contracting could save taxpayers some money.

"It looks like we could tighten up some areas and get some of these services at lower costs," said John Abbey, director of the Performance Audit Operations Division that produced the report.

Georgia's youth prison system became the subject of a U.S. Department of Justice investigation in the 1990s after complaints of abuse. Federal review of the system continues to this day.

Abbey said his auditing team believes the issue of cost control was placed on a back burner in recent years while Juvenile Justice focused on hiring more staff and reducing system crowding.

However, if more attention isn't paid to the department's health-care system, auditors say it's "questionable" whether the department will be able to maintain the improvements it has made since the federal government began its investigation. …