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Broken: Multiple security breaches may jeopardize juvenile detention deal

Posted: 5:58 PM, Dec 03, 2019
Updated: 2019-12-03 19:20:14-05
Juvenile Escape.jpg

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Newly released surveillance video, first obtained by NewsChannel 5 Investigates, raises even more questions about the people who run Nashville's juvenile detention facility.

Now, Davidson County Juvenile Court officials are reconsidering whether they want to continue to work with the private contractor, Youth Opportunity Investments.

"We as adults - and I take full responsibility as the Juvenile Court - we failed these children by allowing them to escape," said Juvenile Court Administrator Kathy Sinback.

The surveillance video shows how surprisingly easy and quickly the four dangerous juveniles escaped, running through the lobby of the Juvenile Justice Center wearing their school clothes, out the front door and into the night.

"At the end of the day, yes, the contarctor failed the community by allowing these youth to escape," Sinback said.

Court officials say the company made a mistake when it left the four teens unattended in the detention area, when they left an open elevator and when a staff member sent the elevator to the basement at the kids' request.

"The basement is an unsecured area," Sinback said.

"It is an area that has a door that leads out to the main part of the Juvenile Court, and the youth should have never been allowed to go to that basement."

The surveillance video shows the escapees were out the front door of the building within seconds.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates noted, "This wasn't just one mistake. It was mistake on top of mistake on top of mistake on top of mistake."

"Absolutely," Sinback answered.

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What does that say about the contractor?

"This says that the contractor is not, at this time, able to do their duties - at least, they weren't that night - in the manner that we expect of them," Sinback said.

As our NewsChannel 5 investigation first revealed, one of the juveniles, murder suspect Decorrius Wright, was able to take a key card off a staff member back in July, get into a secured area and beat up another kid.

Now, we've discovered that two juveniles took another staff member's key card just last month and used it to leave their living area, although it would not have given them access to the outside world.

"We had pointed out that this is becoming a pattern basically," Sinback acknowledged, "that there have been a series of incidents involving key cards and staff - and they needed to review their key and security protocol regarding keys and access for the staff. They assured us they were doing that, that they were cracking down on security."

And now this.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked, "Should this contractor be allowed to keep its contract?

"That is a very good question, Phil," Sinback said.

"I think we are really going to have to evaluate that when it comes time to either renew this contract or to find a new contractor or, in the alternative, to come up with a different plan for our facility."

That contract expires this coming summer.