published Sunday, January 27th, 2013

95-year-old Taft Youth Center begins gathering dust

Taft Youth Development Center, shown here in December 2011, was closed permanently last summer and now is a property of the state Department of Correction.
Taft Youth Development Center, shown here in December 2011, was closed permanently last summer and now is a property of the state Department of Correction.
Photo by Jake Daniels.

QUESTION: Whatever happened to Taft Youth Development Center?

ANSWER: Since Taft Youth Development Center in Bledsoe County ushered out its last three students July 11, only a handful of staff remains.

Gov. Bill Haslam targeted the center as part of budget cuts late in 2011 despite bipartisan opposition from lawmakers who said the center was vital to the state's juvenile justice system.

For nearly 10 decades, Taft was the primary facility for the state's most troubled youths -- in 2012, it held more than 80 youths. But state officials said it also was the most expensive to operate, and closure would save about $8.5 million a year. The Department of Children's Services officials announced plans for closure in April 2012.

DCS handed the center over to the state's Department of Correction, which operates the Bledsoe County Correctional Complex next door. Some Taft staff moved to jobs at the new $208 million prison that is set to start taking inmates this winter.

TDOC spokeswoman Dorinda Carter said just one person staffs the shuttered Taft facility nowadays and the building is being decommissioned.

"The facility's future has not yet been determined," she said.

This update was written by staff writer Ben Benton. Contact him at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6569. Subscribe to his Facebook posts at facebook.com/ben.benton1 and follow him at twitter.com/Ben Benton on Twitter.

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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