In a second case, a former juvenile correctional officer was charged with murder, after a boy died in his custody during a “fight game” he was allowed. The officer, Thomas Lee Hicks, 30, is facing one count of second-degree murder, two counts of second-degree cruelty to children, and one count of violating his oath of office.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation became involved in the case when officials at the Waycross Regional Youth Detention Center requested an independent investigation into an Aug. 9 incident that resulted in a boy losing consciousness while in custody, the state agency said.
At the time, the GBI said only that the boy had become unresponsive in the presence of several other youths and a detention officer. After Hicks’ arrest, the state agency said the boy’s injuries were the result of a fighting game that Hicks did not stop.
The boy was treated by emergency medical personnel and taken to Memorial Health Hospital in Savannah, where he later died, according to the GBI.
The third case involved a 16-year-old female juvenile who died after she became “unresponsive” at Dalton Youth Detention Center. GBI said that they were contacted by the Dalton Police Department about her death in the early morning hours of Aug. 27th.
The Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice Commissioner Tyrone Oliver said that the girl entered the detention center shortly before her death, and she “began experiencing an adverse reaction from what staff learned wan an illegal substance she ingested before her admittance into our facility.”
The GBI medical examiner’s office is conducting an autopsy to determine the cause of death.
In 2019, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution conducted a year-long investigation into failings within the state’s juvenile justice system. The report examined dozens of individual cases, and found that juvenile justice in Georgia is at once both too lenient and too harsh.
The investigation also uncovered brutal conditions within juvenile prisons, and found the system lacks a coordinated effort to confront issues underlying the crimes committed by Georgia teens, such as extreme poverty, untreated mental illness, the allure of street gangs, and the pervasiveness of guns.