State lawmaker suggests changes to detention center after multiple escape attempts

SOMMERVILLE, Tenn. — Three juveniles attempted to escape the Wilder Youth Development Center on Tuesday.

This happened almost two weeks after three juveniles successfully escaped the facility. All three of them are now back in custody.

Last week, the Department of Child Services vowed to add more security guards, improve security cameras, and get audited by the Department of Corrections.

RELATED: Officials question increase in incidents at Wilder Youth Development Center

However, when asked, DCS did not give FOX13 an update on their progress.

State Senator Page Walley suggests sending juveniles considered more dangerous to adult detention centers.

“Our staff there, they are in danger too, and I am very, very concerned about the well-being and security of Fayette Countians living in close proximity to the Wilder Center,” said Sen. Walley.

Over the past 17 days, three juveniles managed to escape the Wilder Youth Development Center.

Seven others tried and failed, while three of those juveniles tried this Tuesday.

Sen. Walley said there are several issues at play.

He said the Wilder Youth Development Center building is over 50 years old, staff members can’t properly protect themselves or restrain juveniles, and the facility is a rehabilitation center, not a correctional facility.

“You have the most egregious, dangerous, violent behaviors of youth 18 and under that are being housed there and that accreditation doesn’t give the officers there the latitude to do let’s say the appropriate holds, to use chemical restraint ever if there is a disruption and protect themselves adequately,” said Sen. Walley.

On June 29th, the Department of Child Services said it would add more private security guards, get evaluated by TDOC security specialists, improve staff pay and recruit more officers along with other changes.

Sen. Walley believes these are good steps. However, he suggests moving some of the more violent offenders to adult facilities.


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“You got a small percentage that can disrupt the entire organization and take up a disproportionate time of staff and resources,” said Sen. Walley.

During the next legislative session, Walley plans on getting funding to the facility. He also wants to add more juvenile facilities.

Either way, he said something needs to be done.

“A few bad apples can spoil the whole bunch, they’ve done some bad things, and bad things are happening and are putting other people at risk,” said Sen. Walley.

FOX13 reached out to DCS. A spokesperson said it’s still investigating how the three juveniles attempted to escape the facility on Tuesday.

DCS didn’t answer FOX13′s questions about how the attempted escape happened with extra security on the grounds.