Wilder Youth Development Center to get security upgrades

Published: Jul. 14, 2023 at 3:19 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 14, 2023 at 7:52 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

SOMERVILLE, Tenn. (WMC) - Built in the 1960s, the Wilder Youth Development Center in Fayette County has been facing major security issues for years but is about to get some much-needed upgrades from the state.

The only juvenile detention center in the state was not designed to house juvenile offenders 50 years after its construction.

The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (DCS) oversees the facility.

“The Wilder YDC was constructed in the 1960s and does not have extensive security measures we need today,” DCS commissioner Margie Quin said before the State Building Commission on Thursday.

That poor security is causing issues for both the youth housed there and the staff working there. In just the past four months, four residents of the facility have escaped, leaving the surrounding communities concerned about their safety and the current conditions.

Following Thursday’s meeting, the State Building Commission approved $1.9 million in improvements for the Somerville facility, which will help DCS manage the property’s security dilemmas.

“Additional cameras and monitoring systems will assist in proper care for the youth in custody,” Quinn said.

But when asked if DCS intends to keep the current Wilder facility or build a new one after the upgrades are finished, Quin said the second option is more likely.

“We’ve got to maintain the integrity of the structures while we are housing children there until the legislature approves funding for us to build a new Wilder,” she said.

According to DCS, most of the youth detained at Wilder are from Memphis.

Quinn says, “This project is necessary to continue to operate the facility safely.”

She did not mention when the improvements to the facility might be made.

Click here to sign up for our newsletter!

Click here to report a spelling or grammar error. Please include the headline.