When a Shelby County Juvenile Court determines a child has committed a delinquency, that child is sometimes sent to a facility specifically designed for the rehabilitation of children. Here in Memphis, this means many children are sent to the John S. Wilder Youth Development Center in Somerville, TN.
A recent DOJ study, though, has raised some disturbing findings about the John S. Wilder facility, and it’s prompted the state to take action.
The study revealed that Tennessee has a higher than average rate of sexual violence against the children held in its facilities. The Somerville center had the highest rate among all Tennessee juvenile centers — nearly 20% of the children surveyed in the study reported being sexually victimized by staff members of the John S. Wilder facility.
According to a WMC-TV report, the Department of Child Services has already committed to bringing change to the Wilder Center. In 2010, the same DOJ study found that a state-run juvenile facility outside Nashville had one of the highest rates in the country. The Tennessean reports the Woodland Hills Youth Development Center drastically reduced that rate in the three years since.
More than 70,000 children are housed in youth detention facilities across the country. Most of them are 16 years old or younger.
You can read the entire DOJ report and see state-by-state statistics by clicking here.