NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - Four employees of Youth Opportunity, which operates the Juvenile Detention Facility, have been suspended after the escape of four juveniles on Saturday night.
"Youth Opportunity is working closely with the Juvenile Court of Metropolitan Nashville and Davidson County to assess the circumstances that led to this unfortunate incident and to develop enhanced security measures that will prevent similar situations in the future," the company said in a news release. "Youth Opportunity continues its internal investigation and, pending the results of the investigation, four of its employees have been suspended."
Nashville Mayor John Cooper's said earlier Monday that an investigation into the weekend escape of four juvenile offenders has been launched at the Davidson County Juvenile Detention Center.
Listen to the 911 call reporting the escape further down the page.
Cooper's office said that Metro's number one priority is bringing the teens into custody for the sake of public safety.
The escape of the four juvenile detainees this weekend is simply unacceptable, and our number one priority is to ensure public safety by quickly bringing the teens into police custody. We would like to reiterate the MNPD’s message for anyone who sees the escapees to call the Metro Nashville Emergency Communications Center at 615-862-8600. A comprehensive investigation of security and communications procedures surrounding the detainees’ escape from Davidson County Juvenile Detention Center is underway so that corrective measures may be swiftly implemented. -Mayor John Cooper
News4's Jeremy Finley reached out for comments from Youth Opportunities, an Indiana-based private industry that runs the center, as well as the Davidson County Juvenile Court itself.
Shortly after noon on Monday, the Davidson County Juvenile Court, which oversees the Juvenile Detention Center. The court noted that the center is managed by Youth Opportunity Investments (YOI), a private detention contractor.
According to the Juvenile Court release, YOI conducted an internal investigation.
The report stated that the four teens were outside their cells after the standard 9 p.m. bedtime at the request of a supervisor, who had asked them to help clean the inside of the facility.
While the four were working, there was a disturbance reported in another part of the facility, and they were left unsupervised for a time. An elevator access door had been left ajar by a staff member, allowing the teens to enter the elevator.
They then managed to somehow convince a staff member in Master Control, presumably the detention facility's operational hub, to send the elevator to the unsecured basement of the building. That staff member complied, according to the 911 call recording, after being told the name of another employee or supervisor.
Once the teens left the elevator in the basement, they were able to access the building through public areas of the Juvenile Justice Center, and exited using the front door.
The contractor told the Juvenile Court that the supervisor on duty notified the facility director at 9:57pm that the teens were missing. That supervisor then drove around in his car looking for the four, and did not call Metro 911 until 10:22pm.
On the recording of that 911 call, the supervisor admits to the dispatcher that they were unsure who to call about the escape, whether it be the state or 911.
YOI has limited access to the facility elevators to only supervisory staff, and placed a number of staff members on administrative leave, all as a result of the investigation.
Juvenile Court staff have been working around the clock since Saturday night to help Metro PD's investigation. They attest that they will be directly engaged in all efforts to return the teens to detention, determine exactly how this happened, and to ensure that this type of incident does not happen again.
Youth Opportunity issued statement on Monday afternoon:
Youth Opportunity is working closely with the Juvenile Court of Metropolitan Nashville and Davidson County to assess the circumstances that led to this unfortunate incident and to develop enhanced security measures that will prevent similar situations in the future. Youth Opportunity continues its internal investigation and, pending the results of the investigation, four of its employees have been suspended.
Youth Opportunity has provided a safe and secure environment for the youth and the citizens of Nashville. Youth Opportunity has heretofore experienced very few safety and security breaches. Unfortunately, over the past weekend, in an isolated incident of a breach of security, four juvenile offenders escaped. Youth Opportunity acknowledges that several members of its security personnel made improper decisions that, when combined, led to an opportunity for the four youth to leave the facility.
The City of Nashville has seen great improvement in the quality of services provided at the Davidson County Juvenile Justice Center under the management of Youth Opportunity. Since Youth Opportunity began management of the facility in July 2015, many innovative programs have been established to provide the youth entrusted to it with education and mental health opportunities that help prepare them for productive lives upon their release.
Youth Opportunity is grateful for the efforts of the state and local police agencies that are working tirelessly to apprehend the four youth.
If anyone sees the teens, or has information regarding where they might be, please contact Metro Nashville emergency communications at 615-862-8600.