DCS Explores Sending 12 Woodland Hills Escapees to TX Facility

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services; November 18, 2014: 

The Department of Children’s Services is exploring the potential transfer to a Texas facility of 12 teenagers who were involved in disturbances at Woodland Hills Youth Development Center.

In September, Woodland Hills had two sets of escapes beyond the perimeter fence. In another incident, youth got outside of the dormitories but did not escape the facility grounds. All youth have since been returned to custody, although some had since turned 18 and were charged as adults.

A dozen youth have been held in a series of detention facilities around the state. While secure, these facilities have limited educational and treatment programs. There currently are no plans to return these 12 youth to Woodland Hills — or to another DCS youth development center.

The department believes it has found a solution that balances community safety and the youths’ educational and therapeutic needs. The Oaks, which is operated by private provider G4S, can accommodate the Tennessee youth. It is located in Brownwood, Tex. and has a wide variety of services for juvenile justice teens.

DCS is still working out many of the logistical details, such as arranging travel for parents and for the DCS staff, who would still need to visit with the youth face-to-face.

Any transfer would have to be approved by the home-county juvenile court that placed each youth into state custody.

If approved, the first transfer of three youth could begin within two weeks.

Since September, Woodland Hills has been calm and has been admitting new juvenile justice youth. As of Nov. 18, Woodland Hills had 63 students at the facility. Security upgrades are ongoing, as is a shift to a new, more robust treatment model.