MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The state of Tennessee is dumping millions into Wilder Youth Development Center in Fayette County where juveniles from Shelby county and across the state go when they’re found guilty of violent crimes and pose a significant risk to their community.
The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services, which operates Wilder, stated the new hardware-secure facility will have 72 beds, and the infrastructure to expand to 96 beds for future needs.
As we’ve reported time and time again, Wilder has had a slew of issues like fights, riots and staff locked in cells.
Between July 2022 and March 2023, WREG Investigators found out state troopers were called in as backup multiple times. They responded to at least two fights, confiscated contraband, searched dorms and served a warrant.
In February, THP reported several juveniles attacked and assaulted a staff member. They stated they stole the staffer’s cell phone and keys before locking them in a cell.
They also assisted with an attempted escape and the escape of three juveniles in March, which was caught on a neighbor’s camera.
DCS said a recent “altercation involving youth” in September left three teens in the hospital.
Because of mounting concerns, DCS stated it has worked to make changes like bringing in private security, increasing salaries to help with hiring and retention, providing new education opportunities and reducing the population.
That also means more kids are being sent to other facilities across the state, hundreds of miles away from their families. WREG Investigators also found out some children are being sent out of state to Texas for their sentence.
We uncovered this list of children sent out of state from DCS through the Tennessee Records Act.
Memphis Shelby Crime Commission President Bill Gibbons has repeatedly said the state needs more secure beds, but believes these new beds still won’t cut it, especially when you look at the amount of kids charged with violent crimes just in Shelby County.
“That still means a very high percentage will have to be supervised in the community. What we have missed so far is the very intensive supervision and services, so that individual is being touched every singled day. We don’t have that. have to move in that direction,” Gibbons said.
Gibbons said this year, he believes 350-400 children will be charged with a violent crime.
DCS said it’s using $19 million of the approved funding to begin the design phase for Wilder and Woodland Hills in Nashville. Woodland Hills staff-secure facility will replace vacant buildings on the campus. It will include a 72-bed facility that can expand to 96 beds in the future.