Committee questions officials after escape of dangerous teens from detention center

Posted at 5:19 PM, Jan 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-09 23:55:28-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Members of the Metro Public Safety Committee questioned officials of the company that manages the Juvenile Justice Center about a recent escape.

Four dangerous juveniles escaped from the detention center in December. Davidson County Juvenile Court Administrator Kathy Sinback said "critical oversights" allowed the teens to escape - something that Mayor John Cooper called "unacceptable."

During Thursday night's meeting, committee members spoke one-on-one with Youth Opportunity Investments representatives about the multiple security breaches that led to the escape.

Juvenile Court Judge Sheila Calloway, representatives from the Metro Police Department and the Sheriff's Office were also in attendance to discuss the circumstances of the escape and subsequent arrests of the juveniles involved.

Councilmembers pointed out direct conflicts between Youth Opportunity's policies and its contract with the city, which says staff should not try to apprehend juveniles who've escaped themselves, even though that's what staff did in the minutes following the escape.

The Juvenile Court says part of the problem is the low wages for staff at the facility -- some paid as little as $12.50 an hour, resulting in underqualified staff.

"It's probably easier, less stressful and less traumatic for someone to choose a job at Chik-Fil-A," said Calloway. "So staffing has been an issue."

Youth Opportunity Investments says it has raised wages at the facility.