NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — We often talk about teens committing crimes, as the number of young people going to court increases yearly, but what happens once they have seen the judge and are awaiting trial? One company says the conditions inside were too much and decided to end its contract.
The company operating inside abruptly decided to quit.
Nashville Juvenile Detention Center holds kids accused of murder, carjackings, shootings and other serious crimes until they get their day in court.
“I can say one of the issues after lockdowns, and after COVID, and [as we] started going back to school, our numbers started rising again,” explained Judge Calloway.
Since 2004, Judge Calloway has been appointed to the position of Juvenile Court Magistrate. Since then, she has been focused on giving the youth an opportunity to change and become better people. In a sit-down interview with News 2, she often talked about her desire to give teens a second chance.
It’s a goal those tasked with watching over the teens say they cannot fund anymore.
Youth Opportunity Investments, the company running the facility called the teens “much more dangerous” compared to other facilities before it quit, as cited in an email from the company to several members of the Juvenile Justice Center. It was a statement Judge Calloway found troubling.
“To automatically say that they are dangerous because of that is very disappointing, and it also tells me that we’re not really looking at the individuals as they are, that we are kind of lumping a title on a group of youth,” explained Judge Calloway.
The email obtained by News 2 went on to say Youth Opportunity employees were “fearful for their safety” and the company’s “reputation is tarnished.”
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Judge Calloway explained she believes there were many turning points as to why the contract ended — one of them being the COVID-19 pandemic. She explained, that when the virus spread, usual activities held for the teens were canceled, and it became hard to maintain staff.
“So what happens when you don’t have enough staff that are watching the youth that are back there, it becomes a little chaotic, and it becomes unsafe,” Judge Calloway explained.
She also points to the 2019 escape as another turning point. Three years ago, four teens escaped the downtown center. It was all captured on surveillance footage, as the teens ran through the hallway and out the front door. The escape led to a manhunt in the following days. Judge Calloway explained, after this incident, Youth Opportunity increased its staff and made sure to change protocols to prevent it from happening again.
The concern for safety is still a major priority with youth crime increasing. Judge Calloway stated the number of teens being held in the center is up.
“It’s definitely concerning I think one of the biggest crimes is all the car thefts and the guns that are being stolen from cars,” explained Judge Calloway.
News 2 has reached out to Youth Opportunity several times for comment. Our calls have not been returned.