The head of the S.C. Department of Juvenile Justice told lawmakers Wednesday that her agency is not asking for any added taxpayer money.
Lawmakers scrutinized the agency last year after riots broke out at a Columbia facility. Officials later blamed that riot, in part, on under-staffing.
However, the agency still has about $8 million left over in its accounts that it can spend, director Sylvia Murray told legislators Wednesday.
The agency’s budget is about $107 million a year, Murray said.
After last year’s riot, Juvenile Justice officials told legislators that low pay made it difficult for the agency to recruit and retain staff. In response, legislators approved an added $1 million for $1,500-a-year pay raises for Juvenile Justice officers.
Murray said the higher pay has helped recruit and keep officers. However, the agency still has 202 vacancies for full-time employees, she added.
The agency’s low pay means it struggles to compete with other state agencies and the private sector when trying to fill some positions, including psychologists and community staff.
Juvenile Justice has 104 juveniles in detention and supervises another 504 juveniles who live in their communities, Murray said.
Murray said her agency has taken steps to discourage future rioting, including creating a hearing process for poor behavior.
The agency also has used leftover money to install furniture that can be bolted down, a response to youthful inmates throwing furniture during last year’s riot.
In addition, youthful offenders who broke the law during the rioting were sent to Richland County’s Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center.
When other youthful inmates saw their peers going to the adult jail, “They got the message,” Murray said.