The leader of the juvenile justice agency in South Carolina withstood the storm for about three months, but Freddie Pough announced this week that he’s stepping down after more than four years running the long-embattled organization.
In a one-page letter to his boss, Gov. Henry McMaster, Pough didn’t mention the turmoil he’s endured recently, including an unannounced walkout in June by officers and teachers who were angry over their working conditions, a harsh audit and the state Senate’s subsequent vote of no confidence in him.
Indeed the tone of Pough’s letter was almost triumphant as he pointed to a drop in the number of youth in state lockup and a lower rate of recidivism.
“At this time of great forward momentum, and the agency’s assured ability to alter the juvenile justice landscape of this state, I believe it is the appropriate time to resign my position,” Pough wrote. His last day is Oct. 15.
McMaster (R), who until recently had expressed public confidence in Pough’s ability to right the ship if given the money and resources to do so, announced that Eden Hendrick will run the Department of Juvenile Justice until a permanent new chief is appointed. A veteran of government service, the South Carolina attorney has experience handling children’s issues and joined the department as senior deputy director last week, according to the governor’s office.
State Sen. Katrina Shealy, who stood with workers during their walkout, said she was pleased that Pough was leaving — and should have done so earlier, according to The Associated Press.
“He’s not a bad man, but boy, did he do a bad job,” the Republican senator said. “I guess he messed it up as bad as he could and he decided it was time to go.”
McMaster said he was grateful for Pough’s service and leadership, adding that he’d begin the search for a permanent replacement immediately. Shealy said McMaster’s appointment for a permanent replacement would undergo a “very serious vetting process.”
Pough first came under pressure in 2020 when federal investigators found the long-troubled agency was violating the civil rights of children in its prison by locking them in isolation in dark, cramped cells for up to 23 hours a day.
In April, the state Legislative Audit Council found a host of other problems, including more violence, poor medical care and educational deprivation.