The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services wants to return to standards closer to prison.
MEMPHIS, Tenn. – There is new information on the issues at the Wilder Youth Development Center in Fayette County. After a series of escapes and escape attempts at the facility, the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services is hoping to abandon the standards it has followed in recent years. The move would allow the department to use more physical strength and more restraint with young people in the facility.
State officials last week revealed their plan at a meeting in Fayette County. For months, the Children’s Services Department declined to be asked about what happened inside Wilder, but an audio tape of the Somerville City Council meeting last week revealed what the DCS had planned.
The Wilder Youth Development Center accommodates young people in detention. Many are accused of committing serious crimes, and many are 18 years old. These are just a few of the reasons state officials told Fayette County leaders that they had had issues at Wilder. Heads of state also said staff shortages, age and layout of the facility were an issue, according to an audio recording.
“Are there any challenges? Yes, there are challenges. Do we have things in place to minimize these challenges? Yes, ”said Darren Goods, Assistant Commissioner of Juvenile Justice.
Goods said the recent problems at Wilder are in part due to the accreditation of the facilities. Goods said the facility was previously accredited by the American Correctional Association, which sets the standards for prisons; however, a few years ago it became the Accreditation Council, which takes a more therapeutic rehabilitation approach to dealing with troubled youth. Goods said, by current standards, physical strength is limited. State officials want to change this. They told Fayette County officials that they have started the process of returning to ACA accreditation so they can use more safety and restraint measures for Wilder’s children.
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“It makes good sense to go back,” said Goods, “It will allow our youth service officers to do more to do more to secure these young men.”
“We should be looking for alternatives or additional resources to give them the support they need, rather than telling them to go back to handcuffs because there is nothing we can do about it,” said Cardell Orrin, Stand For Children.
Orrin expressed concern about the state’s plan to revert to ACA standards and questioned whether the state’s attempt to take a more therapeutic approach had even stood a chance.
“We don’t know if they had the staff to implement it. We don’t know if it was implemented faithfully, by standards they would have done. We know from the reports. , they are understaffed and don’t There aren’t enough people there so we can assume or assume that they maybe didn’t have enough advisers or staff who were also there to put this right implemented, ”Orrin said.
Orrin said current national best practices in juvenile justice reform are rehabilitative and not punitive in nature. A lot of Shelby County youth are meeting up in Wilder, so Orrin has a lot of questions about what’s going on there.
“What makes them want to break out? What issues are they having at the center?” Orrin said. “What happens to the children?
This week, after another incident at Wilder, Local 24 News again requested an on-camera interview and was again turned down.