The director of South Carolina’s Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) has resigned following a report that cited severe problems at her agency, including correctional officers and police who were not properly equipped to handle violent incidents.
Sylvia Murray submitted her resignation letter to Gov. Henry McMaster Friday afternoon, effective at the end of the day. She had been promoted to the post a little more than two years ago by then-Gov. Nikki Haley after the previous director retired. DJJ Inspector General Freddie Pough will serve as interim director until the governor chooses a permanent replacement.
“This decision did not come easily, however, I have decided to pursue other career options,” Murray wrote in the letter. “It has been an honor to serve the citizens of South Carolina, DJJ, and the children entrusted in our care.”
Her resignation came one day after the state Legislative Audit Council released a withering report on DJJ. The audit noted the agency’s corrections officers were under-trained and nearly three out of every four were not certified as officers by the state Criminal Justice Academy. The report also said DJJ’s departmental police were “ineffective and unnecessary” and that agency officials did not follow state law on two teen deaths that occurred at facilities under their oversight.
While appearing before a House panel Thursday, Murray said most of the issues identified in the audit have been addressed since they were first identified. “We heard some very hard things… but we feel here at the agency that we are actually doing a good job,” she told legislators.
In a statement, McMaster thanked Murray for her service. “We recognize the critical importance of continuing to strengthen this agency, and we are committed to ensuring that is done in the safest and most effective way possible.” It will be the first Cabinet pick of his young administration.
Pough has been with DJJ since March 2016. He was first loaned to the agency by the State Law Enforcement Division after a riot the month before revealed serious security issues at DJJ’s detention center in Columbia. He was hired as inspector general full-time two months later.