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Another escape attempt at Wilder Youth Development Center, investigation underway

This is the fourth incident in less than a week at the youth facility in Fayette County.

FAYETTE COUNTY, Tennessee — Another investigation is underway after youth inmates at the Wilder Youth Development Center in Fayette County attempted to escape again.

Overnight, the Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP) requested the assistance of the Fayette County Sheriff's Office (FSCO) just before 12:30 a.m. Tuesday when 4-5 juveniles tried to escape the facility. FCSO said the juveniles had escaped their dorms into the interior yard and were trying to scale the outer security fence. There was also a rope made of sheets thrown over the exterior fence.  

THP and FCSO were able to recapture the youths on the interior yard.  All of the detainees were secured and the scene was cleared around 3 a.m. This is the fourth incident in less than a week where the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office has been called by the Tennessee Highway Patrol to assist at the facility. 

  • 8/28/21 – 11 youths locked themselves inside a dorm after taking a guard’s cell phone
  • 8/24/21 – 2 youths refusing to lock down in high risk dorm
  • 8/23/21 – 2-3 youths took a guard’s cell phone and locked themselves in a dorm

"It appeared they had thrown tied sheets together and thrown them over the exterior fence and tried to get out of the facility," said Deputy Chief Ray Garcia, Fayette County Sheriff's Office.

Garcia said in addition to Tuesday morning's attempted escape, on Saturday, 11 youths locked themselves in a dorm after taking a guard's cell phone. Similar incidents also happened twice last week.

"Having four in a week, there is concern it is quickly ramping up that there is something going on," said Garcia.

Garcia doesn't know what is going on, but he does know something has changed. Wilder is a state-run facility. Typically, calls from the center came in via 911 but not anymore. Now the Fayette County Sheriff's Office is receiving calls from the Tennessee Highway Patrol to assist.

"In the past, we received the calls directly to our dispatch center from whoever was working the control tower or the control booth there at Wilder. I’m not sure if protocols now have changed," said Garcia.

Sources told us employees are no longer allowed to call 911 when there is trouble, something the state denies, saying 911 can be called for a true emergency. Since the breakout attempts earlier this summer, the state hired private security to control the perimeter, and brought in experts to evaluate what needed to be done to make the facility more secure.

"I don’t believe that the physical facility was designed to house the level of serious offenses that those offenders are there for and I don’t know how much has been done to mitigate that," said Garcia.

We have asked for an interview with the Tennessee Department of Children's Services director to discuss the incidents, so far no response.