CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — A recent runaway juvenile is highlighting an ongoing problem for Montgomery County as the county continues to cope without a juvenile justice center.
Clarksville police said 15-year-old Antwain Boyd has run away three times already this month, in addition to additional times he’s run away in the past.
Police found Antwain at a hotel last Thursday, and a judge ordered that he be detained. However, police were unable to find a bed at facilities in surrounding counties and were forced to release Antwain to his mother. Within 30 minutes, police said he ran away again and investigators are still looking for him.
District 16 Montgomery County Commissioner Lisa Prichard has been pushing to open a county juvenile justice center for several years.
“It just is heartbreaking. You look at the picture of a young, angry young man. He’s angry; he’s hurting. We need to be able to solve his problems,” Prichard said.
Montgomery County hasn’t had a juvenile justice center since the 1970s, and since then police have depended on surrounding areas to house juveniles needing to be detained. Usually, officers take them to Rutherford and Maury counties, but have driven as far as Sevierville and Memphis.
The lack of a juvenile justice center has also come at a cost. So far in 2023, the Clarksville Police Department has spent 1,287 man hours transporting these juveniles, which includes 1,014 of overtime hours they’ve had to pay officers. The department calculated transportation costs back in 2021, which came out to just under $30,000.
“If our children get sick in another county, we have to take two officers off the road, send them up there, take the child for medical care, and then return the child back to that facility and then come back home. That’s not efficient at all,” Prichard pointed out.
Currently, the county is in the land acquisition phase of finding a place to put a facility. After they find the land, the project can move forward, but there’s no timeline currently in place.
“This child and this family need some help, and we can offer that help. We have those services available, but without the child in our custody where we can actually physically help the child and parents, there’s nothing we can do,” Prichard added.
For District 2 County Commissioner Jason Knight, his focus is on preventing children from entering the prison pipeline.
“Let’s say, for instance, they have a mental health issue, then we’ll be able to assist them with that mental health issue and that will help to guide them, help to train them, help to teach them so that it keeps them out of the prison pipeline,” Knight said.
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A completed feasibility study suggested the center come equipped with 30 beds, in addition to an array of child and family resources. Both Prichard and Knight emphasize that the center will be mostly focused on offering resources children need and will take a proactive approach to keeping juveniles out of trouble. Prichard added that over 100 organizations were ready and willing to team up with the county to offer youth resources.
Knight said in an ideal world, he would like to see the center complete in five to six years.