Hours after WBIR broadcast a story about chronic unrest and violence at a Dandridge center for juvenile inmates, five inmates beat a guard who tried to stop them from smoking tobacco.

The guard saw the unnamed teen inmates Saturday, Feb. 8, in a cell in what's called the Charlie 1 unit, a building that houses young offenders who require heightened security.

The employee tried to remove the inmates, a police report states, and they pulled him in and started assaulting him.

"(Name redacted) stated he was able to push his way out of the cell, at which time he was attacked by all five inmates, who began punching, kicking and stomping him," the Dandridge Police Department report states.

He was treated at Jefferson Memorial Hospital for injuries that included a concussion.

It's one of three instances just this month in which Dandridge police have been called about problems at the Peal Lane center. 10News obtained records Monday about the episodes.

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A 10News investigation shows police have been called more than 50 times since 2016 to address assaults, riots, vandalism, sexual assaults and other forms of violence at the center, which is owned by the state.

Recent months have seen an uptick in violence, reports show.

At Dandridge juvenile center, the inmates called the shots, employees say

Tennessee hired TrueCore Behavioral Solutions of Florida in summer 2017 to take over oversight of Mountain View Academy for Young Men. 

Their time is coming to an end, however.

The Department of Children's Services told WBIR on Thursday a new vendor has been found to run the center, which tries to rehabilitate and educate young inmates from around the state. TrueCore is supposed to be out of Dandridge along with three other state juvenile centers by the end of the month.

TrueCore says it provides treatment programs for hundreds of juvenile offenders in Tennessee, Georgia and Florida.

On Friday, DCS Commissioner Jennifer Nichols told 10News in a statement the department was "aware of the recent allegations regarding the problems at Mountain View. Though no youth have escaped, I am ever mindful of our responsibility to ensure that the youth in state custody, as well as the communities in which they live, are safe and secure."

A new, unnamed provider already has met with police and Dandridge officials, according to the commissioner.

Her statement concluded: "The immediate focus will be on the safety and security of the facility, and that focus was communicated clearly to the same city and county officials.”

DCS spokeswoman Jennifer Donnals said Monday the department wasn't yet ready to disclose the name of the new provider.

On Monday, Mountain View received letters about the upcoming change in provider.

According to Donnals, "...DCS staff met with employees at Mountain View last week and explained that federal and state laws require TrueCore to send notices that the company will no longer employ them.

"However, employees were also told they will have the opportunity to apply to work for the new provider and continue to work at Mountain View."

SUSPECTED POT FOUND IN CHARLIE UNIT

Saturday's assault is one of at least three since late January, newly obtained records show. A current employee also tells 10News several employees were beat up this weekend but that authorities were not called.

On Tuesday, Feb. 3, several inmates asked a female guard in the Charlie unit to get them tobacco, records show.

A TrueCore sign outside Mountain View Academy
A TrueCore signed erected outside the Mountain View Academy in Dandridge.
WBIR

When she told them she wouldn't do it, "they began to throw water and books at the victim."

She was struck but wasn't hurt, according to the report.

"She was advised by her superiors to report it with Dandridge PD so they can get rid of them (the inmates) since they are of age," the report states.

On Monday, Feb. 3, police were alerted that a Mountain View guard had found what appeared to be marijuana in a clear baggie in Charlie I unit the previous day.

When Dandridge police looked at surveillance video from Sunday, Feb. 2, they saw one of the inmates talking with another at a cell. A small baggie could be seen on the floor.

Video also showed one of the boys going into a cell in Charlie 2 unit. A towel was put over the cell's door window.

A guard whose name has been redacted walked to the cell and opened the door. He appeared to speak with someone and then shut the door.

"A few moments later, guard (redacted) walks back to the cell and opens the door again. He appeared to be speaking to someone again and then briefly shuts the door. Upon doing do, students (five redacted names) all walk out of the cell."

Police from multiple agencies responded to a disturbance Nov. 6 at Mountain View.
Police from multiple agencies responded to a disturbance Nov. 6 at Mountain View. It was the second time in several days that multiple agencies were summoned to the juvenile center.
Jefferson City PD

The report continues: "It is believed that the students were in the cell possibly smoking marijuana. According to (redacted), no other student except for the one assigned to it are allowed to be in a cell."

The police report suggests a relative of the inmate snuck marijuana to him, perhaps during a visit Saturday, Feb. 1.

Five current and former employees last week told 10News boys at Mountain View were freely smoking tobacco and marijuana. The contraband appeared to be coming either from staff or from family passing it to the inmates during visitation, the employees said.

Authorities searched Charlie unit with a K-9 on Friday, Jan. 31. No drugs were found, according to records.

The half-gram of suspected marijuana was turned over to Dandridge police.

NO FEAR OF CONSEQUENCES

Employees last week told WBIR that assaults on staff members have become common at Mountain View. Even female staff members are vulnerable to being hurt, something that was a rarity when the state of Tennessee operated the center.

Last month, a longtime guard told 10News he was fired after calling emergency services to the facility on Jan. 6. Chris Davis said he needed backup dealing with four inmates who were fighting Jan. 6. He said he called multiple times for more assistance from guards at the facility and none arrived. 

Mountain View can house about 24 young men in the Charlie unit and has another 60 beds for other juvenile inmates. Only about 24 inmates total were at Mountain View as of last week, employees said, with the state slowly decreasing the numbers of detainees brought in.

Former employee Andrew Romine, who worked there in 2017 and 2018, said he'd suffered a concussion in a prior attack and knew of other co-workers who had been hurt. Guards aren't allowed to carry weapons and are taught to use passive restraint techniques to take control of unruly inmates.

Beverly Stroupe, former Mountain View employee
Beverly Stroupe said employees faced far fewer assaults from inmates when the state ran the facility.
WBIR

Another, current employee told 10News guards have tried in recent weeks to reduce unrest in the population. Appeasement is one goal, he said.

Beverly Stroupe, who left Mountain View last fall after 15 years, said she fears for the staff's safety. Some of the inmates act like they've got nothing to lose, she said.

"They're already in trouble," she said. "What else are they going to do to them?"

An assault report obtained by 10News from Jan. 29 is similar to other recent reports from Mountain View.

A TrueCore employee at Mountain View told a Dandridge police officer he was assaulted in the A, or Alpha, unit. An inmate began cursing at him and then grabbed a log book from his hands and threw it in a shower.

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The facility is one of three in the state operated by DCS. Mountain View currently houses about 81 teens.

The inmate began punching him in the stomach and ribs. Another inmate joined in until a guard stepped in.

"(Name redacted) said he had bruising and that he was going to go to the hospital after he left the Justice Center," the report states.