Second disturbance shakes Nashville youth detention center

by Reuters
Thursday, 4 September 2014 23:52 GMT

(Updates with incident in May)

By Tim Ghianni

NASHVILLE, Tenn., Sept 4 (Reuters) - Tennessee authorities on Thursday quelled a second disturbance at a Nashville youth detention center where 32 detainees broke out of their dormitories and escaped the facility earlier this week.

Twenty-four boys kicked out aluminum panels beneath exterior windows on Wednesday night to break out of their dormitory building in the latest incident, said the Tennessee Department of Children's Services, which runs the center.

Some of the juveniles attacked guards with sticks and stones, and state and local police were called in to help bring the incident at the Woodland Hills Youth Development Center under control by about 5 a.m., the department said.

Guards reported suffering minor injuries in both incidents, and extra guards were posted at the facility on Thursday, the department said.

When the incident ended, 10 youths identified as ring leaders were taken to a juvenile detention facility in Columbia, about 40 miles (64 km) southwest of Nashville, and the other 14 were returned to their dormitories at Woodland Hills, the department said.

None of the boys escaped the perimeter in the latest incident, the department said. Six of the 32 boys who escaped the facility on Monday night were still at large on Thursday.

Several youths involved in the latest incident also were part of the Monday night breakout, the department said. Several boys involved in Monday's incident had just returned from juvenile court when the second incident erupted, it said.

Some detainees left the dormitory building to escape fumes after others used fire extinguishers to break windows.

Commissioner Jim Henry said the Children's Services Department is looking at policies that restrict its ability to lock the doors of dormitory rooms for juveniles in state facilities.

Boys can leave their single-person dormitory rooms and enter common areas, which "makes it especially difficult for staff to control youth in these types of situations," Henry said.

The department plans to reinforce the aluminum panels and the perimeter fence, it said.

Similar incidents have occurred at the center over the past decade including one in May when some juveniles broke out of the dormitories, according to Rob Johnson, a department spokesman.

Police were called to the center then, but did not enter the premises as staff members were able to talk the juveniles back inside the dormitories, he said. (Reporting by Tim Ghianni; Additional reporting by Curtis Skinner in San Francisco; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall, Eric Beech and Cynthia Osterman)

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