NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – A top state lawmaker says “we are wise to ask questions” about private operators running public juvenile detention facilities.
It comes after four suspected violent juvenile offenders literally ran out the front door of the Juvenile Justice Center in Nashville over the Thanksgiving weekend–including two teens accused of murder.
One agency closely watching the startling escape is the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (DCS).
DCS licenses each juvenile detention facility across the state, but individual jurisdictions make their own decisions like Nashville did about hiring private contractors to run the facility.
A spokesperson for the state agency says its a “common practice” that’s gone on for years for juvenile detention centers across the state to hire the private operators.
A spokesperson for DCS says it does make four unannounced visits to juvenile detention facilities yearly along with one announced formal visit, but state lawmakers can play a role of oversight with the House Sub-Committee on Families and Children.
As House Judiciary Chair, Rep. Michael Curcio is on the children and families subcommittee.
We asked him about state oversight of how these private operators of juvenile detention facilities handle the security of suspected violent offenders.
“I think we are wise to ask that question and that is something I am trying to familiarize myself with more,” he said in a FaceTime interview on Tuesday. “I have met with the DCS commissioner and had some very direct questions about the facilities we are using and what those contracts look like.”
DCS says the Nashville private operator–Youth Opportunity– recently received national accreditation.
The agency has not released reports of what those yearly inspections found for the Nashville facility.