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VOL. 36 | NO. 24 | Friday, June 15, 2012




Youth center closure resulting in locked up kids

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NASHVILLE (AP) - Officials say the state plan to close down the Taft Youth Development Center and transfer juvenile offenders to other facilities is causing delays in assigning juveniles and creating a flow of children into local juvenile detention centers.

"All I'm hearing is the detention centers are holding them until there's an opening (at state facilities) and it's piling up and bottlenecking," said Rep. Jim Cobb, R-Spring City, who was among lawmakers opposed to closing the 95-year-old center in Bledsoe County.

But a spokeswoman for the state Department of Children's Services denied any problems related to closing the facility. Molly Sudderth told The Chattanooga Times Free Press (http://bit.ly/MgWo65 ) that they were meeting their goals.

"We aim to place all Youth Development Center-eligible youth within 30 days of their commitment," Sudderth said in the email. "On June 14, 2012, the average l ength of stay for a youth waiting in detention before being placed in a Youth Development Center was 14 days."

Last year that waiting period was 22 days, she said.

Area lawmakers also pointed out that Taft's closure has been delayed from the start of the new budget year on July 1 to July 13. Sudderth said the budget plan includes money to "wind down" Taft operations past July 1 if needed.

"We would argue that there is no delay," Sudderth said.

Thirty-seven youths remained at Taft as of June 13, according to the department, all of whom were in the "intensive treatment program" for "challenging youth."

Richard Bean, superintendent of Knox County's juvenile detention center, said they are currently housing 22 children from the state while they search for a place to move them, much more than before Taft was slated for closing.

"They're sending the good ones to someone else and the mean ones to me," he said.

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