Town Of Dandridge And County Put State On Notice To Keep Security High At Mountain View

Jefferson County Commission and the Town of Dandridge Board of Mayor and Aldermen took action last week to pass resolutions against the removal of razor wire at Mountain View Youth Development Center. Recently, the State of Tennessee Department of Child Services, which oversees the youth corrections programs in the state, announced that they would be seeking to privatize the Mountain View juvenile correction site that is located on Industrial Drive in Dandridge. Currently, Mountain View is one of three state run juvenile correction sites that house “hardware secure” or highest security inmates. DCS altered the format at the correctional facility in 2015, going from a traditional correctional model to a therapeutic model. Since that change, the number of violent incidents inside Mountain View have significantly increased and in an effort to control the rising number of violent incidences inside the facility the population count has significantly been decreased. With the high number of empty beds at the facility and the possibility of federal funding of level 111 offenders rather than “hardware secure” offenders which are state funded, DCS determined that it would outsource the Mountain View facility to an independent contractor that would maintain 24 top or hardware secure inmates and 60 level 111 inmates. In the therapeutic model that would be mandated, security measures like razor wire and other traditional measure of security are not allowed for level 111 offenders, even though those offenders have generally been convicted of multiple felonies and serious crimes.

The Town of Dandridge met on Tuesday evening and unanimously approved a resolution that would insure that the razor wire and other security measures were kept in place, noting serious concerns for the safety of Town residents. They also requested that any private provider that is contracted to manage Mountain View pay city property taxes. Currently, as the State of Tennessee owns the property no taxes are collected. Additionally, Alderman Depew read into the minutes the terms of the deed to the property which states that the facility can not be used to house adult inmates and that it can not be used to house violent juvenile offenders. It was noted in the minutes that there is a breach of agreement because the facility now, previously and is planned to house violent juvenile offenders.

Thursday evening the Jefferson County Commission approved 13-2 (Commissioners Gaut and Tucker No) a similar resolution that requested the retention of razor wire and other safety measures, as well as put the Department of Child Services on notice that the facility cannot house violent juvenile offenders or adult inmates, as per the deed agreement with the Industrial Development Board which is an arm of the County Commission. It also urges the State to insure that all educational services at Mountain View be provided in house, within hardware secure areas and that no student inmate be enrolled in Jefferson County Schools. The County’s resolution was brought by Commissioner Steve Douglas and Commissioner David Seal.

Jefferson County resident Barry Fain addressed both the Town of Dandridge and the Jefferson County Commission as a expert on the subject. Fain has served on the State Committee level regarding the topic. State Representatives Farmer and Faison, as well as State Senator Niceley have all expressed their concern regarding the privatization of Mountain View and the impact to the community. Both the Town of Dandridge resolution and the Jefferson County Commission resolution have been sent to Nashville.

Source: K. Depew, News Director

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