A month after young inmates rampaged through South Carolina’s main juvenile detention center, starting fires, destroying property and sexually abusing female inmates, state Department of Juvenile Justice officials say they are making progress in reforming the long-troubled agency.
Specifically, they say, the new interim police chief – Freddie Pough, on loan from the State Law Enforcement Division – has already created a new, more thorough search and seizure policy for all visitors and staff entering DJJ’s main campus on Broad River Road.
“We have a whole plan that we have implemented with help from the governor, with input from our security officers ... and he (Pough) is a big part of that,” said Eric Rousey, DJJ spokesman. The plan targets juvenile discipline, physical security and other DJJ areas, he said.
“Some of this stuff has been in the works for awhile, but with the recent incidents, we have stepped it up.”
Pough, 38, a SLED lieutenant, will also serve as interim inspector general, said Rousey.
Pough’s actions have already led to the departure or future departure of some DJJ personnel, sources familiar with the agency said. Rousey declined to give details of any personnel shifts.
“Like any organization, there is always turnover,” Rousey said. “While DJJ does not release specific personnel actions, the agency is committed to giving employees the resources they need in order to successfully complete the current security reform initiatives.”
According to Rousey, Pough is:
▪ Taking an aggressive stance against gangs, who are said to have held power at DJJ. He has met with gang investigators at SLED and the state Department of Corrections and reviewed DJJ incident reports to help identify gang activity.
▪ Helping to train the department’s Special Response Team, a new group whose mission it is to quickly respond to disturbances or potential trouble at the agency’s secure facilities.
▪ Implementing a new secure alert system to contact DJJ employees during security incidents.
DJJ’s lack of a police chief, a gang expert and a competent special response team has been cited as a major shortcoming at the agency. Those deficiencies were exposed and exploited by inmates in the Feb. 26 riot, according to testimony at a S.C. House legislative oversight subcommittee meeting two weeks ago. Poor communication during emergencies was also mentioned at the hearing.
Pough will also be interim DJJ inspector general, which means he will investigate allegations at DJJ and supervise the crime reporting system within the department. As interim police chief, he will be oversee a team of 18 law officers authorized to perform law enforcement activities such as make arrests and conduct searches.
Pough was not available for comment Friday.
SLED Chief Mark Keel praised Pough as a top law officer.
When the governor’s office recently asked him to recommend a law officer who could step in at the department, Keel said, Pough was the first person he thought of.
Pough’s background is excellent for DJJ, Keel said.
After graduating from South Carolina State University in 1999, Pough went to work at DJJ as a juvenile correctional officer, then did a stint at the state Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services, and then worked as a Lexington County sheriff’s deputy. Since joining SLED in 2007, Pough has worked as a criminal investigator in the Midlands.
Besides being a lawman, Pough is also a pastor, Keel said. That means he will not only bring a detective’s eye to crimes, but when possible, he will try to help the facility’s troubled youths, Keel said.
“He is the perfect fit. I couldn’t have picked anybody any better than him,” Keel said.
Pough, who was promoted to SLED lieutenant in August, will help hire DJJ’s permanent police chief, Keel said..
“Mr. Pough is a tough, skilled, and thorough law enforcement officer,” DJJ Director Sylvia Murray said in a statement. “He’s already become an essential part of our team, and helped immensely in our efforts to make DJJ more secure and safe for everyone who comes through our gates.”
Rousey said, “It’s a matter of safety and security. We don’t want to have any incidents out here anymore.”