Auditor releases harsh report on city justice department - NBC12 - Richmond, VA News

Auditor releases harsh report on city justice department

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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) -

The Department of Justice Services - the same department that was forced to close the problem-plagued juvenile detention center last year - got a harsh review from the Richmond auditor Tuesday.

The 94-page document is a not-so-flattering assessment.

Interim department head David Hicks says it confirms what he thought when he first took over: there's reason to be concerned.

The audit examines a year in the life of the Department of Justice Services, which oversees some juvenile and adult offenders in Richmond.

Hicks took it over when the city was forced to fire the agency head and close the juvenile detention center.

"When I asked for the audit to be done, I wanted to know the good, the bad, the ugly," he said.

There's bad and there's ugly. Hicks explains the agency lost sight of its complicated mission and that became the root of the problems.

"It's not really law enforcement, it's not really social services, it's definitely not schools but its mission touches all of those things," he told us.

The audit says communication among those groups is critical to success and lack of it led to failures.

It also lists issues with staff, training, records keeping and effective programming.

Since the examination period closed, the city added a new head of the juvenile detention center and right now is in the process of hiring counselors.

"You don't really build from the ground up because you first have to start with the proper leadership," Hicks added. "You start with the proper leadership from the top and then you build from the ground up under that umbrella."

If that ground isn't solid, the consequences can be dire.  City Council President Charles Samuels, who is a juvenile criminal defense attorney, says crime rates could go up as the system fails juvenile offenders. They'll ultimately end up as adult criminals.

"If you have folks without an education living at or below the poverty level, who frankly think that they can get away with anything because there's no consequences, it could have a horrible impact for the city," he explained.

There are 26 recommendations in all, most of which will cost taxpayer dollars. Right now, the agency budget is $10 million. Hicks says he'll realign the funds to different priorities before asking for any new money in the next budget cycle.

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