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Fayette Co. residents on edge after repeated escapes from Wilder Youth Development Center

Published: Jun. 23, 2021 at 9:57 PM CDT
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FAYETTE COUNTY, Tenn. (WMC) - Fayette County residents don’t know what to think after two escapes in two months from the Wilder Youth Development Center.

The latest escape happened early in the morning. Residents like Tyroncia Douglas say they are tired of it.

“Real scary because we got kids in our neighborhood, young kids,” she said. “Then, a couple of years ago this riot, then after that, five of them got out and now three. It’s kind of shocking to me.”

That is what people who live near the Wilder Youth Development Center are left with. Three 17-year-olds, two from Memphis and one from Chattanooga, escaped around 1:30 a.m. Wednesday. One was at Wilder for murder and another already had one escape.

Last month, five escaped and showed up on a resident’s front porch asking to use the phone. They were captured soon after. Since 2020, 13 detainees at Wilder have escaped.

“It’s a concern to us because we have to be concerned about the safety of the citizens of Fayette County and obviously, this is a safety concern for anyone living in the area,” said Ray Garcia with the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office.

Garcia says the Department of Children’s Services is over Wilder. He says the sheriff’s office is working with the state to come up with a solution.

Jennifer Davis worked at Wilder for five years as a youth service officer. She quit last year. She said one of the problems is understaffing. She says one officer is supposed to supervise eight detainees. WMC was unable to confirm that with Wilder.

“During the escape, they only had one staff in the dorm with 20 something kids. You’re very out of ratio. You’re understaffed,” said Davis.

Davis also says there is a different breed of detainees, including gang members,

“You’ve got murderers, you have robbers, you have carjackers, and you have rapists,” she said.

Residents are left with one solution.

“We’re keeping our doors locked just to be on the safe side.”

The Department of Children’s Services said in a statement that it is interviewing staff and reviewing internal security footage to see how the escape happened.

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