FOX13 investigates: Assaults decrease, disturbances increase at state-run juvenile facility

WATCH: FOX13 investigates: Assaults decrease, disturbances increase at state-run juvenile facility

FAYETTE, Co. — Almost two months after a group of tens escaped from their units and vandalized the facility, FOX13 is learning more about past assaults and attempted escapes at the Wilder Youth Development Center in Fayette County.

FOX13 obtained state data that shows the number of assaults in the state juvenile facility have decreased over the past five years.

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In 2016, there 499 assaults at the facility. Officials said majority of them were youth on youth incidents but some of these incidents include youth assaults on staff members.

A spokesperson for the Tennessee Department of Children's Services said the Department changed its policy in 2017, prohibiting confinement as a use of punishment.

"Seclusion (locking a youth in a cell) can only be used when youth are causing harm to self or others and the youth must be released when calm and then debriefed. We believe these factors have contributed to the decrease in assaults at Wilder," wrote Jennifer Donnals from the Tennessee Department of Children's Services in an email.

But the number of youth disturbances at the Wilder Youth Development Center is increasing.

From January to October 2019, there were six youth disturbances at the facility. State records show there were three youth disturbances last year and only one in 2017.

The number of attempted escapes also increased this year. State records show there were three attempted escapes this year compared to only one in 2018.

In an email, Donnals said the DCS Office of Juvenile Justice has increased the focus on a therapeutic-approach to the treatment of youth at the facility.

"The staff has built in incentives into programming and there is a heavy emphasis on verbal deescalation techniques and developing therapeutic rapport. There has been an increase in structure, including adding more planned activities to decrease down time, and encouraging more outdoor gross motor activity," wrote Donnals.

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