published Saturday, December 10th, 2011

Proposed Taft Youth Development Center closure draws fire

A motorist passes the entrance to the Taft Youth Center in this file photo. The center is located north of Pikeville, Tenn.
A motorist passes the entrance to the Taft Youth Center in this file photo. The center is located north of Pikeville, Tenn.
Photo by Jake Daniels.

BY THE NUMBERS

Facility / Annual budget for 2011-12 / Average daily census / Student cost per day

• Mountain View: $11.3 million / 103 / $299.42

• Woodland Hills: $12.1 million / 104 / $319.16

• John S. Wilder : $11.3 million / 108 / $286.94

• Taft: $12.3 million / 90 / $375.29

*Includes costs associated with water treatment plant and farm utilities which are disputed

Source: State and local officials


TAFT NOTES

The 16- to 19-year-old boys at Taft have adult sentences, serious delinquent offenses, are serving a third commitment or have exhibited severe behavior problems at one of the other regional Youth Development Centers. The on-site school at Taft provides basic academic subjects, vocational training in 10 subject areas, special education services, plus GED preparation and testing. The program options at Taft include individual and group therapy, alcohol and drug treatment by certified substance abuse counselors, a specialized program for violent offenders and an extensive recreation and arts program. Taft's interscholastic football program, unique among the state's centers, competes with area high schools. The facility also operates a water treatment plant that serves the center and surrounding community as well as a farm.

Source: Tennessee Department of Children's Services

It's no YMCA and a far cry from a daycare.

Taft Youth Development Center in Bledsoe County houses about 100 of the state's hardest juvenile cases, something it's done for more than nine decades.

But with Gov. Bill Haslam's call for 5 percent reductions in departmental budgets, Department of Children's Services Commissioner Kathryn O'Day has proposed closing Taft and transferring those 16- to 19-year-old students to one of the other four youth centers scattered across the state.

The move has drawn bipartisan opposition from local lawmakers, who argue O'Day is cutting a vital piece from the state's juvenile program and taking a 170-job bite out of the surrounding Cumberland Plateau counties.

O'Day told Haslam during a November budget hearing that Taft is the system's most costly facility, with a $12 million annual operating budget and as much as $37 million in capital needs. By closing Taft, the department would save $4.4 million a year, according to O'Day.

Most of the 167 people who work at Taft are trained by the Tennessee Department of Correction and should be able to find jobs at the nearby $208 million Bledsoe County Correctional Complex, slated to open in 2013, O'Day said.

The new state prison is expected to create 400 jobs or more, according to officials.

COST ESTIMATES DISPUTED

But local lawmakers want to revisit the figures O'Day has cited in light of the important role the center plays in juvenile justice and the local economy.

State Rep. Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, who represents Bledsoe and Cumberland counties, said he wants to meet with O'Day face to face to review ideas for saving money.

"For a 5 percent budget reduction I don't think you have to close any of them (youth development centers)," he said.

Sexton suggested eliminating frozen job positions and looking for a deal with a nearby utility company to operate Taft's water treatment plant, which is now run by the facility.

"The purpose that Taft serves is it takes the offenders that the other centers can't control," he said. Closure is "not a solution to the problem."

Sexton issued a statement late Friday, calling for a more thorough analysis of data before any decisions are reached about Taft. He said he will provide the governor's office with more detailed information on the youth center.

Sexton is joined in opposing the proposed closure by lawmakers representing Taft's neighboring counties, Rep. Jim Cobb, R-Spring City, Rep. Bill Harmon, D-Dunlap, and Sens. Eric Stewart, D-Belvidere and Charlotte Burkes, D-Monterey.

Harmon, who represents neighboring Sequatchie and Van Buren counties, says the Department of Children's Services "jumped in a little early" with the suggested closure of Taft and officials might not be looking at the whole picture. The immediate impact will be on area jobs, he said, but the state's youth and surrounding communities could suffer in the long term.

Taft inmates can't be put "back where they've already been disruptive," he said. "And juvenile problems and gang problems are not getting any smaller."

Harmon believes that the costs of running a water treatment plant and a farm create a misunderstanding on Taft's higher cost figures, and the $37 million price tag for "improvements" was based more on a "Christmas list" than a list of immediate needs.

The staff at Taft already has said they can do without those improvements, and Harmon agreed.

O'Day responded Friday, saying the $37 million in repairs and updates needed at Taft includes repairs to its 1932-era boiler, replacement of a security building and kitchen facility and construction of new dormitories, which were built in 1943 and 1963. Taft was built in 1918.

Department of Children's Services spokeswoman Molly Sudderth said a meeting between O'Day and lawmakers will probably be set sometime in the coming week.

A MOTHER'S STORY

Southeast Tennessee resident Karen Jones said her son had never been to any of the state's youth development centers but was sent to Taft because of the serious nature of his crime, a robbery.

She'd heard "all the horror stories about Taft, about how they let kids get beat. I cried and I cried and I cried," Jones said.

But her son "needed to be with his age group and with people with much harder offenses, which is what he did," she said.

Guns were involved in her son's crime and he needed the stricter structure at Taft to get turned around, she said.

Although the "horror stories" worried her, that changed as soon as she and her son got to the mountaintop facility, where they were "welcomed with open arms," she said.

"When my son first got there, the counselor told him, 'We're going to get you a diploma,'" Jones said.

"That's what they did. They did everything they said they would," she said. "I had some little problems with them, but when I went to the correct person, they took care of it. I have no problems with Taft."

Jones' son also benefited from the unique programs at Taft, such as interscholastic football.

"What lockdown facility do you know of that gives the boys a chance to have extracurricular activities?" she asked. "It's just heart-breaking to think they would even consider closing Taft down, for the kids and the staff up there."

RESULTS MATTER

Students assigned to Taft average a seven-month stay and, even with the more aggressive offender population, also have the highest success rate of all state youth centers when it comes to students who've been released then live in the community for 12 months without another offense, according to Sexton,

Sexton said Taft's success rate was 84 percent, compared with rates at the other four centers of 82.8 percent, 69.3 percent, 81.5 percent and 74.8 percent.

Taft students have access to more vocational areas of study, he said, and more Taft students earn their GEDs than students at other centers. Twenty students completed the GED program in 2010-2011 and 53 got their high school or special education diplomas, according to officials.

Sexton also questioned O'Day's assertion that crime rates, adult and juvenile, are in decline. He said TBI statistics show crime among juvenile males was down by 0.013 percent between 2008 and 2010, but remarked that shift was "not a statistically significant reduction."

He noted statistics also show increases in crimes such as rape, aggravated assault, arson, car theft, robbery and drug offenses.

Sudderth rebutted Sexton's remarks.

"The most recent compilation of U.S. juvenile statistics from 2008 shows a 16 percent drop between 1999 and 2008, and a 9 percent drop for juvenile violent crime for the same period," she said.

Those statistics come from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Programs, Sudderth said.

DEEP IMPACT

Bledsoe County Mayor Bobby Collier said the shuttering of Taft would send tremors through every facet of the local economy.

"It's not only going to affect unemployment, it's going to affect businesses who count on people getting those paychecks," Collier said.

Taft's closure would likely even impact local utilities, he said.

But the biggest impact "is the disservice they are doing to the children," Collier said, pointing to the unique vocational programs at Taft that can give students a leg up on a job when they're released.

"To me it's strange, you've got a model institution of rehabilitation for students and we're going to close it down," he said.

Bledsoe residents are "extremely worried" and he hopes legislators keep the issue open while the potential impact of closure is explored, he said.

According to O'Day's response on Friday, if Taft is closed, the facility would go to the state Department of General Services. Department of Children's Services officials have been "in discussions" with the Department of Finance and Administration about the future of the center's water treatment plant if Taft is closed.

It's possible it could be run by the Department of Correction or the Department of General Services, according to O'Day.

"At this point, the closure is still a recommendation," said Sudderth. "However, if Taft were to close, we would work closely with the Department of Correction on a timeline that could benefit employees."

about Ben Benton...

Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...

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fairmon said...

A 5% reduction is reasonable, necessary and an incentive to deal with inefficiency and reproductive systems and people. Is Kathryn O'day an experienced business manager or a political appointment? Corporations reduce more than 5% without closing an operation but by restructuring, reducing overhead and administrative cost plus outsourcing non-core functions.

December 10, 2011 at 5:36 a.m.
pikeville said...

Ms.O'Day is a political appointed commissioner from Knoxville. She is a social worker from the private sector with little or no experience in Juvenile Justice. It has been reported that she has been misinformed from within her own dept. From what I have read in this article this could be the case. She states that Taft operates a 1932 era boiler, when in fact Taft has two new boilers that are powered by natural gas. The dormitories were renovated in 1982. The security complex, academic school/counseling center are new buildings built in 2003.It is evident that she has made her decision of closure based on incorrect facts.It seems to me before a decision of this magnitude was made one would make sure their facts were correct, or could there be another reason? If the departments mission is to help these seriously troubled youth,why would you close the highest performing facility.

December 10, 2011 at 8:35 a.m.
memphisexile said...

I love it. Don't worry corrections officers, if we lay you off you may be able to get a job at the new prison. 2 years from now. Geez.

December 10, 2011 at 9:05 a.m.
GreenKepi said...

So..."Taft is the system's most costly facility"; however, it is the best! I've worked with all of them across the State. For over 20 years, I have seen the dedicated staff provide the best of care and overall good for the young men involved.

'Memphisexle'...thoughts such as yours will do nothing but hurt the future rehabilitation of these troubled young men. But...I understand...its not about "the best" but only about FEDERAL Dollars...!

December 10, 2011 at 9:50 a.m.
ninnyof3 said...

I hope that our state officials will do some research of their own rather than taking the word of one before making a decision to close Taft. There are way too many juveniles and staff that will be affected by a decision such as this and not in a good way. What is more important here the furture of the children that this facility can help or closing it to supposedly save money?

December 10, 2011 at 10:33 a.m.
purplelaw said...

Of course this is the most expensive juvenile facility, it houses the most severe juvenile offenders. What will happen when those offenders are transferred to other facilities. Costs at those facilities will increase, and so will the risk for the other juvenile inmates. Save money elsewhere Purple Law Firm, Chattanooga, Tennessee

December 10, 2011 at 11:23 a.m.
pikeville said...

Yes it will raise costs at all the other facilities considerably. What the administration needs to consider is the savings worth the risk. They have younger, less violent offenders at the other places. Some of the offenders at Taft would surely prey on them. Lets all remember in prison the strong survive I'll bet the staff at the other places are aginst this proposal.

December 10, 2011 at 11:48 a.m.
teach_them_all said...

And before these young men became juvenile offenders they were in classrooms across the state with teachers being held accountable for these students' test scores. Check the numbers. The amount of juvenile offenders is going up, not down. These children aren't going away, and worrying about test scores rather than helping these boys when they are younger, before they become too far gone would be a better use of money.

December 10, 2011 at 3:22 p.m.
teach_them_all said...

Also, prisons are built based on student reading scores in early grades (http://www.edu-cyberpg.com/Literacy/stats.asp). The prison problem could be solved by investing money in educating young children with smaller classrooms and better training for teachers. It might take a few years to see results, but isn't that better than continually having to increase the money spent on housing these people who may not have turned out this way if they had a little more help when they were younger?

December 10, 2011 at 3:29 p.m.
pikeville said...

Guess whats going to happen if this proposal is approved? They will re-enter your classroom. Overcrowding means early release!!!! Until the money is thrown your way we need the JJ institutions to keep our schools and community safe. Where do you think the kid who killed the principal in east Tn. is?

December 10, 2011 at 3:37 p.m.
taftsupporter said...

The closure of Taft Youth Center would be a terrible mistake as it would drastically impact the lives of 170 families and the local economy. I applaud the legislators on their efforts to help save and institution that helps save the lives of the states most serious juvenile offenders. They are obviously doing something right according to the statistics. In the article it mentions four other Youth Development Centers...I believe there are 3 others for males and the fourth being a facility for females. I have known many people through the years that have worked at the facility and they are all very dedicated to their cause. I know that several years ago, there was a new security complex, schools and treatment center built..so it is unreal to think that new dormitories and a kitchen would cost 37 million dollars. I believe that Mr. Sexton said that the dining room always has high inspection scores...this alone is alot better than some restaurants. It would be a shame to see this facility close...the local economy, the staff, and the young men would all suffer. I agree that Govenor Haslam should visit the facility and see exactly what services are provided before he makes a decision on the facilities fate. The young men in this facility are difficult to deal with...this type of youth require experienced and well trained staff. Taft has this now ...why take this away?

December 10, 2011 at 4:19 p.m.
RealDeal said...

It always amazes me that the 'powers that be' fly by the seat of their pants! Ms. O'Day has made one brief visit to Taft, and for many years, this facility has been the red-headed stepchild. People judge us, discrimate against us, insult us, and talk about issues they have NO knowledge about. I truly pity the people that do not have this knowledge of Taft, it's programs and services, and the team work of the employees. For many years, we have strived to lead by example and with our record, we can prove that we measure up. Of course, when wrong information is passed around, it's easy to make bad judgement calls. This certainly is the case right now. I further pity the taxpayers of this State. Why? Because it will be you that will become the victim of violent crimes when students are released because another student needed a 'bed'! I have never understood why this department operates on a reactive basis instead of a proactive basis. If the train is coming, it's wise to stop and let it pass. Not drive onto the tracks and let it mow you down. That is exactly what is going to happen. And, when it does, the powers that be should be ashamed. It's not just about money either! It's about treatment and rehabilitation, it's about our community, it's about the tax dollars working people pay, and it's about doing the right thing! It's never wrong to do the right thing. I know for a fact that the other institutions do not want Taft closed because they are not and have never been equiped to deal with our population. The other part of that statement is that if they close Taft now, it's just a matter of time before they start closing other institutions. There are no more DCS group homes, so like I said, they are going to be living right next door to you. I hope it doesn't take acts of violent victimization for the taxpayers of this STATE to wake up and smell the coffee. One other valid point I would like to mention is this: Taft has the most seasoned work-force of all juvenile institutions. Since it is a violation of FEDERAL LAW to discriminate against persons over the age of 40, I am thinking that the employees at Taft may have a class action suit. That would cost the taxpayers even more money. Either way you figure it, it's the TAXPAYERS that are going to pay, and pay dearly!

December 10, 2011 at 4:45 p.m.
RealDeal said...

Written by a Taft Employee-Part 1 THE MIRACLE OF TAFT’S FOOTBALL TEAM

Did you ever wonder how a place like Taft can field a football team? Well, consider this. A team is made up of eleven players who should know something about playing with a football—that weird shaped ball that can do crazy things in the air and then fall with a thud on the ground. Second, reflect on the word “team.” A team is usually thought of as a group of people who have a common goal. For many of the Taft boys the notion of working with others (such as Crips and Bloods, black and white, etc.) to achieve a common goal is a foreign concept much less one which just will work for them. But on a football field, these barriers to achieving a goal are dropped to the ground when the players step onto the field. They must throw off that cloak of racism and gangism (my term) if they are to succeed. Third, knowing the fundamentals of the game does help. When one takes into consideration the comprehension level of these students, many of whom have only completed the 6th grade, remembering plays and rules takes on a whole new meaning. How many rules can the boy remember if he cannot read the play book? Playing by instinct usually results in misread signals and broken plays. Remember now, we are talking about boys aged 16-18 who don’t have a clue about the big picture and really don’t care if we win or lose. Fourth, where’s the beef? These boys are used to payola. They don’t get paid in cash for taking a hit. They do get an occasional meal prepared by an area church before some but not all games. This is real Southern food not the calorie counting stuff served at Taft. Consider too that no one looks at Taft boys for college scholarship consideration. Staff asks that they play the game and win, too? I ask again: Where’s the beef?

Many of the Taft staff become coaches on some level. We encourage them to keep on even when we have a losing season. We all know plays that will work. Security is heightened during the game because of the possibility of runners. Counselors assist with security measures and watch for that one behavior signal of the fleet of feet. The crowd must be monitored for those who would assist our young men in an escape or possibly cause riotous behavior. It is a tense time for the staff, but they continue to do their jobs and encourage the boys to keep going. We and the coaches play the game with the students. We suffer the agony of defeat and the exultation of winning as they do.

December 10, 2011 at 6:52 p.m.
RealDeal said...

Part 2 The coaches must have iron guts to endure the frustration of seeing plays end up in utter despair and then feel the exultation of the most beautiful executed play in the world. Public school coaches have experienced the same emotions, but at least they have some players who know the game and have some expertise. Now, occasionally Taft does get a player who has been fairly good on the street. What a joy! The practices resemble the Pee Wee practices at times, but sometimes they do get better. I see the disappointment on the coaches’ faces, but still they continue in their job.

There is always a football banquet funded by area businesses, but some players do not make the football banquet because of quitting the team along the way or acting badly on game trips. For those who do get to attend, eating all they want—no portions are limited is a sight to see. They also get to drink coffee—a forbidden substance for these guys—and which usually makes them sick. Many of the guys eat and drink so much that they get sick. But for one brief moment, they are just regular guys having fun and laughing and eating.

You ask why do the boys play football. It is a way to get rid of pent up frustration of the locked up life they have lived. They do get to leave the Taft campus even if it is in a state van. They do get to see girls and cheerleaders strut their stuff. They can experience the intoxication like any other high school football player feels on the day of the game when they wear their jerseys to school. I choose to think that they want to experience the exultation of the free world for one brief shining moment and as a popular song says to experience being the “boys of fall.” They revel in the excitement, but sometimes they get an overload and must be brought back to reality.

Through the efforts of the coaches, these students are taught teamwork, respect for others, manners, and a routine of prayer. These players know that there is someone who cares what they do, and they have a male figure to whom they can talk.

The staff turns into their cheerleaders and boosters. We yell and holler at them to do better. We pat ourselves on the back when they do well. We exult in their success. We are sad when they lose. We care what happens.

The feeling can be contagious and exhilarating and lingers for that one moment in time when we are at a high school game with our Taft football players. We are the Taft Tigers!

And you wonder why they do it?

December 10, 2011 at 6:53 p.m.
romeo said...

Taft Youth Center houses the most violent juveniles committed to the state prison system. Taft employees do not do this by choice, they are sent the juvenile prisoners that the other facilities can not handle. They have professional counselors for the juveniles that pour their heart and soul into their work. Okay, let me understand this...they have the toughest job in the juvenile system, yet they have higher success rates in rehabilatation, job skills, and high school diplomas. Somebody explain why they have the toughest job and do the best job.....

December 10, 2011 at 6:55 p.m.
RealDeal said...

Well, I would think by virtue of the fact that no other institution could handle them, that in itself explains the toughest job part. Of course then there are their charges, level of education, learning abilities, motivation and etc.

Regarding doing the best job, there are a multitude of reasons. For one, Taft employees do their jobs, for two, the students know it's the last chance to make something positive come from their committment, and three, the natural process of maturity goes a long way. This is the short answer. To add to that, it's because of our workforce that we are able to accomplish these things. Teamwork, Experience, knowledge, determination, and the skills of the employees make us who we are and enable us to do what we do best.

December 10, 2011 at 7:09 p.m.
arrowspaint said...

My Dad and brother both were once students at Taft Youth Center and both have stated that this place helped them to become who they are today. They both have great jobs and have'nt been re-encarcerated since. I would just like to say Thank You to ALL STATE EMPLOYEES working at Taft...past and present. My Grandmother and Mother both slept better knowing that they were at a safe secure place that taught them to be productive citizens in the end. I hope Taft does'nt close...i feel like Taft is a second chance for alot of these students to be able to get an education that will help to prevent them from crime in their future. I have seen these students at football games and they showed respect to other players and visitors as well as having respect and pride for themselves. Taft Youth Center has so much to offer these students...an education, counseling, industrial skills and medical treatment. How can our youth learn to be productive citizens without guidance that most may have not been able to gather somewhere else. My family did'nt start their time at Taft, they went through other youth centers in the state. Both have stated that Taft, by far, is where someone took the time to believe in them as people and not criminals. With that being said, i again would like to Thank the Taft employees for showing patience, respect and guidance as that has shaped them into the men whom they are today. THANKS SO MUCH!!!!!!!!!

December 10, 2011 at 8:21 p.m.
therealist said...

First and for most, I think it takes one sorry person to wish someone would loss there job, someone the people that work there put there heart and soul in to that job and take risk everyday, but they continue to go to the job and its not for the money, not always sometimes its to see a child betters there self in the future. people want to point fingers at these children and sawy its all there fault, of course some of it is but. your children act how u taught them to act and thats all they know if they have a good role model in there life they can change and have a better future.. (see example above) these children learn so many differant things about the world that they may have never learned before. taft has been around for many yrs and id like it to stay many more. the population of the kids leaving taft and going to prision in low/ unlike some other places. so please tell me what good is it going to do to move all these kids have them meet all new people that there not compfortabke with and dont trust, and make all these people loose there job. becosue one person decided that sounded like a good idea? i mean really?i think this should be very much so taken more seriously instead of just jumping the broom, they have dedicated employees that have been there for yrs and have time in with the state they arent all going across the road. and i can assure you those children will not get the education, attention, disapline, and faith like they have now anywere else but i can assure you they will loose those things.. I FEEL VERY SORRY NOT ONLY FOR THE CHILDREN THAT PROB HAVE NO CLUE WHATS GOING ON. AS WELL AS THEY WOUNDERFUL DEDICATED EMPLOYEES THAT GO THERE TO WORK, TEACH EVERYDAY AND DRIVE LONG DISTANCES IN BAD WEATHER TO DO SO. I COULDNT DO THERE JOB I ADMIRE EACH AND EVERYONE OF THEM EXREMLY. I ALSO THINK THEY SHOULD BE TAKEN IN TO CONSIDERATION AND SHOWN A LITTLE MORE RESPECT FOR ALL THE EFFORTS TIME AND HARD WORK THEY HAVE PUT INTO THE FACILITY.. THANK YOU AND GOD BLESS....

December 11, 2011 at 3:12 a.m.
therealist said...

why would you close the highest performing facility.

ANSWER THAT QUESTION

December 11, 2011 at 3:14 a.m.
JTOTHAR said...

WHAT! CLOSE? NAWW MAN IF IT WANSNT FOR THAT PLACE ID BE LOCKED UP NOW I WAS THERE FOR A MIN. I GOT MY GED WHICH WOULDNT OF HAPPEN ANY OTHER WAY GOT OUT STRAIGHTEN UP. GOT ME A JOB MY FAMILY ACTUALLY HAS ALOT TO DO WITH ME KNOW AND I HAVE THAT PLACE AND THE EMPLOYEES MORE IMPORTANTLY TO THANK FOR THAT. AND YOU ALL ARE GOING TO TAKE THERE JOBS! YO THATS MESSED UP. THOSE ARE GOOD PEOPLE. I KNOW ALOT OF BOYS THAT WOUNT BE HAPPY WITH THAT. I APPERCIATE EACH AND EVERYONE OF THEM THAT MADE A IMPACT ON MY LIFE AND TOLD ME TO PULL MY PANTS UP! GET A EDUCATION MAKE SOMETHING OF MY SELF I LISTENED TO THEM MORE THAN MY OWN PARENTS AND FOR THAT I HAVE MY PARENTS BACK IN MY LIFE KNOW. SO IF ANY YALL READING THIS YALL KNOW WHO U ARE THANK YOU FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY AND MY FAMILY HEART COULDNT OF DONE IT WITH OUT YA!!!!

December 11, 2011 at 3:24 a.m.
mountainboy said...

To all parents with kids in ydc other than Taft closing us will put the most violent teens in the state on a bus to live wit your child exposing him to gangs and violence. To all those high paid pencil pushers in Nashville would u close riverbed and send those inmates to a lesser facility? Big Wigs in the ville need to come do our job for a while to see what the real picture is. These boys are not on the mountain for skipping school although they deserve the right to a education that Taft can provide them with along with vocational skills no other ydc can offer. About those fighting tigers that take local high school football fields by storm every fall win or loose it is.more than just football it is about everyday skills for everyday life. Teamwork honesty responsibility and hard work. Thanks for supporting the tigers and the facility everyone call your state reps and stand up for us. Its tiger time HOLD DAT TIGER.

December 11, 2011 at 9:53 a.m.
whatsupwiththat said...

Voted mostly republican most of my life, didn't realize when Haslam said he wanted to run the state like a business he meant to make a profit for him and his buddies. Should have I guess, that's what a business does and the more money the better regardless of who it hurts is the way most big business operates.

Haslam, Commissioner O'Day, and Deputy Commissioner Albert Dawson want to contract out the problem juvenile justice kids. They can hand out nice fat contracts to their buddies and have cushy jobs, income from stock, campaign contributions, etc. when they get thrown out of office in a couple years. They are already trying to contract 150 beds in Memphis. Notice I said "beds" not for quality care of a 150 kids. They have 150 beds at Taft, but they can't profit from those.

Wonder how the next governor can get out of the contracts, which the last one just did a couple years ago in Memphis, if they close the state facilities? Also wonder if the place in Memphis made campaign contributions?

December 11, 2011 at 10:10 a.m.
RealDeal said...

Might I add that when they had the Shelby Training Center in Memphis, the students were treated bad! The CLUE PHONE is ringing taxpayers! It's gonna cost a lot of money to repair the other facilities after Taft closes and they tear the other institutions all to pieces. Seems like there is a big case of "meeitus" going on in Nashville. I find it interesting that there has been hardly a mention of this in The Tennessean, anyone else?

December 11, 2011 at 11:16 a.m.
RealDeal said...

This is the most recent article about Taft I can locate in The Tennesean......

http://www.tennessean.com/article/20060308/COLUMNIST0102/105030040/1093

December 11, 2011 at 12:44 p.m.
pikeville said...

I too wonder why Chattanooga and Knoxville are covering this story, but when you look in the Tennesean Taft is nowhere to be found. Wonder if you can find Woodland Hills YDC in the Tennesean?

December 11, 2011 at 1:35 p.m.
RealDeal said...

pikeville, my guess would be that most of the legislators and people that matter read The Tennessean more than the other papers! It even made the Memphis Paper. That, like so many other things speaks volumes to me!

December 11, 2011 at 1:52 p.m.
IfItAintBroke said...

It has always baffled me how the Government and advisors of such continually try to "fix" things that aren't broken. In this I mean closing or eliminating facilities or programs that actually "Work" instead of those that don't. Its almost as if the people who actually make such things possible are being penalized for doing an outstanding job. I understand the mindset of supporting the under-dog but in this case the under-dog needing the support (and excellence of Taft's dedicated employees)are the young men who end up in Taft as the last chance before entering general population of the ADULT correctional facility. Has Ms. O'Day crunched those numbers? I haven't researched the statistics but it seems from everything I have read here that Taft has the highest REHABILITATION success rates of any juvenile facility in Tennessee. Is that not the goal once these boys are in the system, rehabilitation? From the information stated in this article and comments posted, Taft is not the broken cog in this financial machine and "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."

December 11, 2011 at 4:14 p.m.
pikeville said...

I recall about 6 or 7 yrs ago a superintendent at another facility said they didn't need TAFT, and would deal with their own problems. Admissions from this facility froze for 6 months. Ironicaly Taft's superintendent was in Nashville hearing the adminastrations plan to close Taft. When the commissioner got a phone call saying there was a huge riot at the facility that "didn't need Taft". There were several milloin dollars worth of damage done and the meeting about closing Taft turned into a planing session of how to get the students to Taft. On the same vans they travel to football games every fall they headed west and picked up the troubled teens, and brought them back to Taft. All these teens completed Tafts program and went home. Most of them played football that year. Wonder why?

December 11, 2011 at 5:28 p.m.
RealDeal said...

I recall that incident. I also recall that the Metro Swat Team was called in to regain control. Taft doesn't have a Swat Team to call in. We operate on experience, we use the Contingency Plan, and we get the job done. Who knows, we may have to send Taft people to the other institutions to train those employees how to handle certain situations. We have had to do that in the past. Yep, that would cost the taxpayers a large chunk of change. If you total up each employees salary, housing, and meals they would be paid, the taxpayer is looking at about $200.00 extra dollars per day, per employee PLUS salary and overtime. Yea, closing Taft would save 5% NOT! I think it would cost the taxpayers a lot of additional dollars. Of course that is if I'm crumching the numbers right, and that is one thing I can do!
I urge everyone, Taft employee or not to contact the legislators and state the obvious! Of course, if you don't mind new taxes you can always sit back and watch these things come to pass. I would like to believe that our hard working tax payers are smarter than that. Have we learned nothing from history?

December 11, 2011 at 9:11 p.m.
ilearned said...

i just seen this story and i been readin these posts. is this true or is it just some more b.s. sounds like somebody needs ta get der head out day ass and face some fax. i have had a few of my homies there years back and i had homies at them other places. my homies say taft folks let em do day time and day learnt stuff that has helped dem. one of my homies is a barber and makes good money and he aint been in no crime stuff since he got outta dar. so who be the mental giant pusing dis. what do dem folks now bout dis place. sounds like they don't be knowin how to git in out da rain and dat proves day aint got no clue. yea dis here will bite em they ass but it gonna bite the workin peopls to. this just aint right. i can say i was treated like a human when i went up dah mtn to chill wif my homies and i cant say dat bout them othher place. crime gonna rise all over da state. might as well go to chicgo or somthin. reckon some dem ppl up in nasvile can waked up or it to late. taft dont be axtin for much n day do what day can wit what day got. now day git slapped in da face and throwed out to the wolfs. damn govment. insults all of us dat pay our tax.

December 11, 2011 at 10:14 p.m.
RealDeal said...

ilearned: It's not often that we hear good words from visitors, so I just wanted to say thanks for taking the time to post. We often hear from former students, and that keeps us working hard at what we do. But to hear nice things said about us from someone who visits is greatly appreciated! And thanks for sharing about your friend who is a barber now. There are never enough success stories and it's always rewarding to hear about one.

December 11, 2011 at 10:42 p.m.
Awayfromthere said...

Maybe the Commissioner needs to be investigated to see if she isn't setting herself up for a cushy job after her boss leaves office. Something smells rotten in this whole thing. It appears she is feeding on misinformation and we know she can't be that dumb, can she?

December 11, 2011 at 10:55 p.m.
whatsupwiththat said...

If Commissioner O'Day and Deputy Commissioner Dawson aren't in it for the money explain why they are already making 15-30% more than the previous commissioner and deputy commissioner who were there for several years and they've not even been there a year yet.

How can Haslam justify cutting everyone else 5% and giving them huge raises?

December 12, 2011 at 10:46 a.m.
pikeville said...

Thank you to all the citizens that have posted positively on this blog. The monster that is big government may win this fight, but it is clear that the citizens that are educated in this area have spoken. There is not one area that is measurable that TYC doesn't place first. They have the highest recidivism rate yet they have the least boys. This should speak volumes!! Once this historic institution is closed it will be the tax paying citizens that will bear the burden, and the curent deceptive adminastration that will reap the profits!! Until there isn't a juvinile male in Memphis, Nashville Knoxville,Chattanooga,or Pikeville who rob a gas station and kill the clerk exicution style in the supply room there will be a need for a TYC!!!!

December 15, 2011 at 11:05 p.m.
RealDeal said...

You have that right pikeville! It's not just the closing of this institution, it's the way they have gone about it. This sneaky stuff and the untruths are too numerous to even mention! And then to drop a bomb on 170 employees right before Thanksgiving?

And, now they are doing the blatant by sending people in to nit pick us apart, dig for deficeincies, all the while we can see their eyes gleeming with propspect!

It's not over yet, and what all taxpayers need to also consider is that if they close Taft, it's just a matter of time before they start on the other institutions! It's all about privitization, just as it was in the 80's when our former administrators made themselves quite wealthy after the changing of Governors.

If Haslam has any hope of running for President, (which I think he does) this is gonna be a mighty black eye for him. They need to grow a set and come face the people here. But, they are scared because they believe all the rumors and innuendo that's been spread around about Taft and it's workers' for all these years!

What's the old saying "Only believe half of what you see and nothing you hear" I think it goes. But, I have faith that those of us who are there and have been there for the RIGHT reasons will continue to move forward and I pray that all employees will be able to get other jobs. There is a lot more to all of this than any of us know. But, at some point, it will surface and then the ones that have been victimized might get a clue.
I wonder which institution will replace us as the red-headed step-child? I can speculate as to the one that won't be, LOL. I feel kinda left out with all this back scratching going on in Nashville!

December 16, 2011 at 8:30 p.m.
pikeville said...

I don't have to speculate real deal. I'll tell you who it won't be!! It won't be the facility that hit the Tennessean about 3 yrs ago with one of the higest rates of sexual abuse involving staff on student in the NATION not Tennessee. THE NATION!! This administrations proposal is a joke, and I hope the legislators and the public call their hand on it.

December 16, 2011 at 9:23 p.m.
RealDeal said...

Oh yea, PREA, better known as the Prison Rape Elimination Act! Wouldn't the taxpayers just DIE if they only knew what that was costing them?

I hope they call more than their hand on it. With the amount of money Haslam is paying his cabinet, it would save a lot of jobs and feed a lot of people. And if they would check to see what all of the 'contracts' cost them, they might wake up and smell the coffee. At Taft, we paint no matter what job class. At other facilities, they contract their painting needs out. Other institutions have janitorial staff, but guess which one is consistently the CLEANEST wuth NO janitorial staff? It doesn't matter how OLD a building is, there is no excuse for them not to be clean. I've been to some of the YDC's, and if I'd been blindfolded, I'd of thought I was at a Nursing Home the pungent smell of urine was so bad! If they want to scrutinize us, let's be fair about it. Compare apples to apples, and forget about the fruit salad. If you have madness, you must have a method to it. Yet again, another shortcoming!

December 16, 2011 at 9:33 p.m.
corndog said...

I worked at Taft for nearly 40 years. Might night every year for the last 25 or more, the rumor has gone around that they would close Taft. Scare tactics. But, this time, I ain't so sure. Thinkin bout it, I remember that the new deputiy comisioner was our A number 1 suporter He even come there and acted as our Super for a short time and sung praises for our good work. And now, all of of sudden, he has had a change of heart. Guess that's what you call a convertable or somthing?????? Guess that's how it goes, throw away the best you got and leave no one to teach others how to be as good. Ishore am proud that I retired, but I do feel bad for all the people I worked with for so long. All of us needs to get behind these people. Tax payers, new staff, old staff and retired staff. I hope everone joins this causs cuz it's gonna hurt everone fore it's over with!

December 16, 2011 at 11:11 p.m.
RealDeal said...

corndog, I agree with what you posted, but don't understand all of it. I do know that the new Deputy Commissioner was our number One supporter at his previous posistion, and I do know that he came in for a short time when we needed an interim superindent, and did sing the praises of our good work. This is clearly evident by the number of students sent to Taft (from his former facility) which is double or even triple of students the other institutions sent.

I also realize what you mean by 'yes man' becase in his new posistion (as dep. com.) he has laid all his cards on the table. What I don't understand is how a lifelong democrat could hold a deputy commissioner posistion in the Haslam administration. If Haslam dug a little deeper into his cabinet selections, he might get a more acurate picture of reality.

December 17, 2011 at 12:14 a.m.
outthere said...

It seems our new Assistant Commissioner was one of our "best friends" until he was appointed Assistant Commissioner. Then because he was bought by the black caucus, has had a change of heart. (you know, bought and paid for) Goes back to history of 40 years ago. Our new Commissioner has made the statement that she doesn't want any child "locked up". So if she doesn't want any kid locked up, then they will end up in the same neighborhods they were in, doing the same things that they are in trouble for now. She came from foster/group homes, and has already closed every state group home in the state. The only ones left are a few PRIVATELY OPERATED home, and it gives the appearance that she has every intention in becoming the Lord and Master over them. (sorta feather's one's nest) The Commissioner keeps telling everyone that Taft is the most expensive, when in reality, is the cheapest. It's easy to look at the top figure in a budget and not count the contracts that the other institutions have to take care of things like maintance, ect. One instituion has a cantract right now that is costing 1.6 million to repaint and retile the place, we do our own. How about a contract for all internal repairs, cause other institutions don't have a maintance department? What's the cost of that? What about the amount of overtime spent by each institution?? Taft's is the LEAST. Oh Yeah, what about the 800,000.00 that Taft returned to F&A?? Did the other institutions return taxpayers money to the department..NO! These are important topics, but the more important topic is the kids. Taft graduates more students that the others combined. Has a lower rate of returning to a life of crime than the other by a considerable amount. The reason for any justice center is to rehabilitate the kids, give them an opportunity to succeed. Taft DOES THAT! It seems to me that if the state has something that does it's job, they close it! Contact your legislators and let them know that Taft really does need to stay open!

December 17, 2011 at 2:20 p.m.
RebelBuck said...

It seems that all this boils down to is politics. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, they say. My family has always been strong democrats and now with a republican in office, if the closure of Taft Youth Center comes down, I know that all my family will definetly "vote out" our republican governer the next term. I've heard alot of relitavies and friends say they don't like thier government "run like a business" but more like a GOVERNMENT, the way it should be!!!! REALDEAL, you have the right idea about private contractors. Didn't Mountain View try that once about twelve years ago and it wind up costing the state lots of money because of a law suit becuase of someone not being on thier J-O-B? As a taxpayer I like to know that my tax dollars are being spent accordingly to help this great state we live in strive. If private contractors take over this section of DCS I'm not so sure that all the taxpayers in this state will be happy to know the facts about private contractors such as Shelby Training Center and how there tax dollars are spent so friviolusly. It seems that the future of our state, these "wayward youth", should have a chance at life by placing them in the capable hands of the folks at Taft. They have a higher success rate in High School Diplomas and GEDs and better vocational training than most public schools.

December 17, 2011 at 3:05 p.m.
RealDeal said...

AMEN, AMEN, AND DOUBLE AMEN! By putting these FACTS out there, our only hope is for EVERYONE to contact the Legislators, Congressmen/Congresswomen, Senators and the Governor himself. All we have heard for years is the word "transparent", and if this is what they call it, I sure would hate to see what they call Muddy Waters! It's going to take every citizen and we need help.

I would think that everyone would want to be able to live in their homes without turning them into prison looking structures (bars on the windows, alarm systems, cameras, attack dogs, etc.), but if we don't all pull together, that is going to be what has to be done. As sad as it is, it's the truth.

In the end, the students lose, but the taxpayers pay the price! How hard is that to comprehend? We can talk all day long, but until we let those who are elected KNOW in writing the facts, it will just get swept under the rug like so many other things do in politics. So, once again, I am asking.... no BEGGING anyone who is reading this blog to take a stand!

December 17, 2011 at 6:13 p.m.
pikeville said...

whatsupwiththat said... Heard they got rid of the supervisor over the place that staff and students liked and respected and sent some guy from Nashville up there that had been in trouble for filing thousands of dollars in excessive travel claims. Guess what, he's not driving a state vehicle to work, bet he's filing travel claims for mileage from Nashville and probably meals to, even though they get a free meal there.

They're only looking to make money off this. Just check the salaries of the last Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner that had been in there for years. O'Day and Dawson both make 15-30% more and they've not even been there a year yet. How can they need to cut 5% everywhere else and add that much to their own salaries.

December 17, 2011 at 8:58 p.m.
pikeville said...

byrdro said... Taft Youth Center is not a boy scout camp, and the inmates are not there for singing too loud in the choir. For the most part, these inmates are there as multiple offenders, or offenders who have committed very serious crimes against persons. There are also offenders there who have been tried as adults, but are still too young to be placed in adult penitentiaries to serve their sentences. I don't think it would be desirable to place any of these offenders in institutions where less serious offenders are housed.

December 17, 2011 at 9:09 p.m.
RealDeal said...

There is a town hall meeting on Tuesday, January 3 at 5:00 p.m. 2012 at the Bledsoe County Courhouse. Everyone is invited to attend and hear the TRUTH.

December 30, 2011 at 10:39 p.m.
Crossville said...

That is awesome! I will definitely be there, RealDeal.. I hope a lot of other people come too. I'm sure they will because a lot of us want to know the truth!

December 31, 2011 at 9:45 a.m.
Crossville said...

This article states that Taft employees are trained by the Tennessee Department of Correction and should be able to get a job at the new prison being built. The fact is that ALL juvenile institution personnel are trained at the Tennessee Correction Academy. BUT the curriculum is totally different for those who are there through Department of Children Services. There is a world of difference between being trained to work with juveniles and being trained to work within the adult prison system. The statement misleads the public into believing that these people will be able to just walk right in the prison and get a job which is absolutely not true. This statement just makes losing 170 jobs seem a little less drastic to the public. None of the training received by DCS employees at the Tennessee Correction Academy qualifies any of them for working with adults.

January 3, 2012 at 2:22 p.m.
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