Juvenile gang members continue to live by ‘the code’ behind bars

Special Reports

Right now, young children across Tennessee face serious charges after being accused of heinous crimes.  

Last year, nearly 200 children in Tennessee were arrested for gang activity. 

For young gang members, their affiliation doesn’t end when they’re inside juvenile detention. 

Juvenile detention is a holding place for children who face serious charges and are either awaiting trial or a transfer to the adult system. Their gang ties don’t end at the door. 

“There are some pretty high-ranking gang members in here,” said Dallas Scott, Vice President of Programs for Youth Opportunity Investments. Youth Opportunity Investments operates Nashville’s juvenile detention center. 

He said all youth who come into the Juvenile Justice Center are screened. They’re asked if they have gang affiliations or ties. The answer they give is important for both the safety of the children and the staff.  

“We have to, as program administrators, talk to those youth about placement to make sure we place them in the correct living unit,” explained Scott. “So, if they’re with a rivalry gang, so to speak, we make sure not to place those youth in harm’s way.” 

Scott said gang activity may lead to fights behind bars or even out on the street.  

“They may put out a hit on a young man or lady so what we have to do is make sure we watch them closely,” said Scott. “We’ve had incidents where high-ranking officials call outside of the facility to have young people commit crimes to come into the facility.” 

He said building relationships with those inside juvenile detention helps avoid big issues.  

So far, the center hasn’t had any gang riots or fights they couldn’t handle because of that open communication.

Click here to read more stories from our all-day “Gangs of Nashville” special. 

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