2017-11-16 / Front Page

Youth Detention Center opens; Quinn will head the new facility

By SPARKY NEWSOME
editor and publisher


New facility director Denorio Quinn (far left) welcomed state and local dignitaries to ribbon-cutting ceremonies and guided tours of the Wilkes Regional Youth Detention Center expected to begin operation in December. New facility director Denorio Quinn (far left) welcomed state and local dignitaries to ribbon-cutting ceremonies and guided tours of the Wilkes Regional Youth Detention Center expected to begin operation in December. The much-anticipated ribbon-cutting for the new Wilkes Regional Youth Detention Center, which marks the imminent opening for operation of the facility in mid-December, was almost overshadowed by the announcement of its director.

The facility is the result of a years-long project to rebuild and repurpose what had been the Pre-Release Center into what is now a state-of-the art facility for the rehabilitation of wayward kids, ages 12 and up, who have fallen into the Juvenile Justice system. It will house, feed, and educate 48 such kids at a time (40 male and eight female), employ some 60 people to start, and contribute about $5 million annually to the local economy.

Its director is a product of Wilkes County and its schools, Denorio Quinn, a 2005 graduate of Washington Wilkes Comprehensive High School, who was on hand for the ribbon-cutting and ensuing tours and celebration. “The best news of the day is that one of our own is going to be the director,” Washington Mayor Ames Barnett said as word got out that Quinn was the director.


Among those who spoke at ceremonies Tuesday were WRYDC Director Denorio Quinn and Wilkes County Commission Chairman Sam Moore, who was instrumental in bringing the center to Wilkes County; DJJ Commissioner Avery Niles; and State Board of Juvenile Justice member Willie Bolton. Among those who spoke at ceremonies Tuesday were WRYDC Director Denorio Quinn and Wilkes County Commission Chairman Sam Moore, who was instrumental in bringing the center to Wilkes County; DJJ Commissioner Avery Niles; and State Board of Juvenile Justice member Willie Bolton. During the opening ceremonies various dignitaries spoke about the importance of the facility, the years of work that went into bringing it about, and its potential for reshaping the lives of kids it will service.

Willie Bolton, a member of the board for the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice and a native Wilkes Countian, stated that in a state the size of Georgia, sometimes there are large distances between family members when children are in detention facilities. “This facility will put youth closer to parents and their families and reduce hardships for families in our communities,” he said. “I am glad this facility is here and excited about the positive outcomes that will be achieved.”


Toombs Circuit Judge Britt Hammond and State Senator Lee Anderson learned about procedures from Assistant Deputy Commissioner in the Security Detention Division Pamela Johnson during tours conducted Tuesday. Toombs Circuit Judge Britt Hammond and State Senator Lee Anderson learned about procedures from Assistant Deputy Commissioner in the Security Detention Division Pamela Johnson during tours conducted Tuesday. State Senator Lee Anderson voiced his support for “anything that will help these young people get a new start.” State Representative Trey Rhodes pointed out the critical role Governor Nathan Deal has played in getting the facility built.

“This has been a long road,” Wilkes County Commission Chairman Sam Moore said, remembering the opening of the Pre-Release Center in 2006. That facility was closed in 2011 and immediately, Moore began efforts to bring it back or have it replaced. He chronicled the efforts of the last six years saying, “Here we are today with a wonderful facility that we can be really proud of, and it’s going to provide even more jobs. We have made a really big step and I think it’s going to be a good fit for our community. We look forward to all the many years that it’s going to be open, and to all the jobs and opportunities that it makes for our county.”

Barnett commented that “this didn’t just happen,” and he credited Moore for his instrumental role in bringing it about. “We have so many people who are going to support this facility and these kids. We are blessed,” he added.

“This is the realization of a dream,” Toombs Judicial Circuit Judge Britt Hammond said. Adding his congratulations to Moore, Hammond said, “It’s an act of pure will by him that this came to fruition and I know it was hard, and I sure do appreciate all of his efforts.

“I think that the community is going to embrace the rehabilitation and treatment ideals that the Department of Juvenile Justice is pursuing,” he said, continuing, “I think you’re going to find a great partner in Wilkes County and we are very glad that you have opened this facility here.”

Having already pointed out that the operation of the facility is expected to produce a little over $5 million annually “dumping into this economy” purchasing food products, opportunities for work, etc., Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) Commissioner Avery Niles said that the construction of the facility had been a $20 million undertaking.

“This new facility is unique. It is a state-of-theart facility,” he said. “Our employees who are going to work here are going to see a big difference in the way this facility operates. How we have put things together to make sure education for our youth is so important to the citizens of this county and to the citizens of where the kids come from.”

The commissioner offered his thanks to those who helped design and build the facility.

“When you look at the facility, you’ll see new technology enhancements to compare to old facilities that we moved from,” he said. “You’ll see a lot of wire up, and that’s a deterrent. It adds a set of protection that I’m not happy about. The reason I’m not happy about that is because it sends a negative message.”

Niles said the coils of razor wire suggest “correction” when the DJJ is “all about rehabilitation and in this facility you’ll see all those facets of rehabilitation.”

He continued by saying that the United States is home to some of the poorest people and that kids that end up in DJJ facilities may have had mental health issues, may have experienced trauma, or may have experienced life-ending situations. “Regardless of how they come to us, the Department of Juvenile Justice will do everything in its power to make sure the kids leave differently.”

One way he suggested is for the local community to become involved and stay involved.

“Volunteer,” he said. “Be a mentor, a beacon of hope. Write a note and drop it off at the door. Our kids are in desperate need of love and in these walls they will be shown love.”

Niles related a sort of mantra for making a difference: “Each, reach, teach, keep.

“If each one of us will reach one of them and teach them how we were taught, we will keep them. And when we keep them, each one of them can reach back and teach one more.

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