The head of the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services says it’s time to rethink its policy regarding 17 and 18-year-old delinquents in its custody.
The discussion comes after three separate escapes of multiple students at the Woodland Hills Youth Development Center during the month of September.
DCS Commissioner James Henry on Tuesday told News 2 that 38 percent of the 306 delinquents in department custody are 17 and 18 years old, and they cause about 70 percent of the problems.
“It might be time to take a look at what we call juveniles in this state,” said Henry. “And that takes a change in law.”
Henry noted that many other states classify 17-year-old felony offenders as adults, who would be prosecuted by the state department of corrections.
“When you’re dealing with 14, 15 and 16 year olds, you can have a more therapeutic service,” Henry said. “When they’re 17 and 18 years old, their education is pretty well set.”
Henry was at the Tennessee State Capitol on Tuesday to meet with incoming Attorney General Herbert Slatery about the Woodland Hills escapes.
Based on a decades-old court settlement, the youth at Woodland Hills and other youth development centers are not allowed to be locked inside their rooms.
The department is hoping to work with the attorney general’s office to revise the standing court agreement.