Mountain View Youth Development Center Update

DAVID SEAL

JEFFERSON COUNTY COMMISSION, DISTRICT 9

MOUNTAIN VIEW YOUTH DEVELOPMENT CENTER

UPDATE

History

Concerns about Mountain View were expressed earlier this year after the Department of Children’s Services announced plans to restructure the program in that facility. Those concerns focused on details of security changes, planned operation of the facility by a private contractor, and the replacement of the correctional model with a therapeutic model of treatment for the juvenile delinquents housed in the facility, placing Mountain View in a posture to receive “partial federal funding” for certain populations. Citizens and public officials were most alarmed that youth would have more freedom inside the facility and that razor wire on the perimeter fence would come down.

There was also concern that youth from Mountain View, which in recent years had experienced assaults, escapes, and uprisings, would be placed into our public schools. Local officials obtained and reviewed the $10,731,000.00 one year contract between DCS and G4S, the private contractor that would take over operation of the facility July 1, 2017. In that contract, executed on March 20, 2017, provisions were made that required G4S to “comply with and be evaluated against” a contract provider manual that suggested, among other things, that children in DCS custody “attend public schools whenever possible.

Community Reaction

Recognizing a variety of security and financial concerns raised by citizens and public officials, Jefferson County Commission, the City of Dandridge, and the Jefferson County Board of School Commissioners passed resolutions, aimed at DCS, that addressed MVYDC, calling for maintaining a high level of security and keeping all educational services in-house. With numerous schools, city and county facilities, and the Jefferson County Nursing Home within close proximity of Mountain View, officials were quick to point out these concerns, as well as the added cost of law enforcement resulting from the increased frequency of emergency calls to Mountain View.

Response

After the resolutions reached DCS Commissioner Bonnie Hommrich, the Jefferson County State Legislative Delegation, and the U.S. Legislative Delegation representing Jefferson County, a series of stakeholder meetings was initiated on March 31, 2017. DCS and other state officials started the process of meeting with local officials to address issues at MVYDC. Attending those meetings were members of: Jefferson County Government and County Commission, Juvenile Court, Circuit Court, city officials of Dandridge, Attorneys for Dandridge and Jefferson County, law enforcement officials representing Dandridge and the Jefferson County Sheriff, DCS officials and their general counsel, Tennessee Department of Safety, Tennessee Highway Patrol, representatives of G4S, representatives of MVYDC, and representatives of the Governor’s Staff. State Representative Andrew Farmer, Chair of the House Civil Justice Committee, organized the first meeting.

Results

Resulting from the stakeholder meetings, DCS and G4S were able to: address numerous concerns, reveal specific details of the improvements to security that includes multiple levels of escape prevention, formulate a detailed security plan overview, provide census information to local officials on juvenile residents, formulate a formal law enforcement and emergency protocol that has been deemed satisfactory by local law enforcement officials, provide written assurance that “no juveniles housed at MVYDC would be placed in local public schools”, and provide written assurance that G4S would serve as the Local Educational Agency for the juveniles, which insulates Jefferson County Schools from any cost sharing for educational services. DCS and state officials have committed to holding ongoing stakeholder meetings with local officials and providing transparency with respect to policy decisions at Mountain View.

On a Personal Note

In the stakeholder meetings, one of the points that we all agreed upon was the fact that juveniles must have a sense that they are relatively safe and secure inside the facility in order to be successful with their rehabilitation program, and that members of the Jefferson County community must be reassured that every effort is being made to keep the public safe from offenders that may be housed at Mountain View. I am optimistic that these things can be accomplished if we all work together for a common goal of success at Mountain View. I would like to express my sincere appreciation to all that have worked to address important issues at Mountain View.

Source: Submitted by David Seal, Jefferson County Commission, District 9

Jefferson Farmers Co-op 08112014