Fri., June 14, 2013 5:01pm (EDT)

Advocate Applauds Swift Action
By Orlando Montoya and Larissa Allen
Updated: 1 year ago

SAVANNAH, Ga.  —  
Department of Juvenile Justice Commissioner Avery D. Niles, pictured, announced the immediate suspension with pay of 19 investigators this week.  Niles suspended the employees upon learning that investigations into 20 cases of alleged abuse remain unresolved.  (Photo Courtesy of Department of Juvenile Justice)
Department of Juvenile Justice Commissioner Avery D. Niles, pictured, announced the immediate suspension with pay of 19 investigators this week. Niles suspended the employees upon learning that investigations into 20 cases of alleged abuse remain unresolved. (Photo Courtesy of Department of Juvenile Justice)
A Georgia children's advocate is applauding state juvenile justice officials for taking action in a sexual abuse scandal.

A state probe has yet to find out why it's taking so long for the Department of Juvenile Justice to investigate claims.

Department policy requires sex abuse allegations to be investigated within 45 days.

A department spokesman says Commissioner Avery Niles found out on Wednesday that 20 cases have been languishing since last year.

Thursday, Niles suspended 19 investigators and their supervisor while department officials look into the delays.

Pat Willis of Voices for Georgia's Children says she appreciates the swift response.

"It was good to suspend the staff members that were responsible," says Willis. "But I hope that we will also go back to the children involved in these cases and make sure that we are providing the support and treatment that responds to the abuse that they experienced."

The suspensions came after federal justice officials found Georgia has some of the highest rates of sexual abuse in juvenile detention centers in the country.

Department spokesman Jim Shuler says Niles is taking the allegations seriously.

"This suspension is a very important move," Shuler says. "This represents a very definitive move on the part of the commissioner because he has basically suspended all but one investigator from the office of investigations."

Shuler says 36 investigators in unaffected units will fill in for the suspended workers during the probe.