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TN Lawmakers Address Juvenile Center Sex Abuse

By Kamika Dunlap on February 09, 2010 10:15 AM

Tennessee lawmakers are trying to figure out how best to protect youth from sexual abuse at a state juvenile center.

Their action is in response to a federal report released naming Woodland Hills Youth Development Center in Nashville as having one of the highest rates of sexual abuse in the country.  

According to the Tennessean, the report claims that the majority of cases at the state-run juvenile detention facility involve female staffers' abusing male youths.

As previously discussed, a major report by the Department of Justice revealed that three in 25 juveniles in detention centers are sexually abused. The first of its kind, the report highlights a systematic problem.

Lawmakers say to address the issue oversight is needed.  

Members of the joint Select Committee on Children and Youth have begun questioning Department of Children's Services officials about how they investigate claims of sex abuse at juvenile detention centers.

DCS officials say they use their own internal investigators to consider claims along with the help from the local police department.

Some of the new legislative changes proposed by the committee include:

  • Remove the special investigation unit from under the DCS umbrella
  • Use outside specialists to interview juveniles about sex abuse claims
  • Use outside party to collect claims of abuse and forwards them to authorities

Earlier this year, the DOJ ranked Woodland Hills in Nashville 13th in the country among juvenile facilities where there had been reports of sexual abuse by staffers.

Since then, the facility has installed cameras in all living units in the last six months to ensure children are safe.

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