KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Amid mounting disarray, unrest and violence at a Dandridge youth center, the Florida firm that oversees it will stop managing it by the end of the month, the state Department of Children's Services announced Thursday afternoon.
Department spokeswoman Jennifer Donnals responded to inquiries from WBIR, which has been reporting since November on riots, attacks on employees and repeated calls for police help to the Mountain View Academy for Young Men.
Employees have told 10News this week it appeared TrueCore's time with the state was ending.
Donnals confirmed it Thursday. TrueCore also will cease oversight of three centers in Nashville, she said.
Her statement reads: "The Department of Children’s Services confirms that TrueCore Behavioral Solutions is ending operations in the State of Tennessee by February 29. TrueCore is a private provider that operates one juvenile treatment facility in Jefferson County and three juvenile treatment facilities in Davidson County. The department has a provider identified to continue operations at Mountain View Academy for Young Men in Dandridge and current TrueCore employees at that facility will have the opportunity to work for the new provider."
The name of the new vendor isn't identified. Employees tell 10News the person has experience with a juvenile center in Middle Tennessee.
WBIR has documented dozens of calls for police help to the center since 2016 because of fights, vandalism, inmates on the roof, rioting and other violence among the young inmates, referred for treatment because of violent crimes such as murder as well as significantly lesser offenses.
TrueCore began running Mountain View in summer 2017. Not all of the problems have occurred under its watch. But many have, records show.
A TrueCore spokesman didn't respond Thursday to a request for comment. He previously has said the firm was trying to meet the challenges of running the center while pledging "to continue to work with the Tennessee Department of Children's Services to make any needed adjustments."
Dandridge Police Chief Carson Williams couldn't be reached Thursday. He's previously met with new DCS Commissioner Jennifer Nichols about unrest at Mountain View.
Since 2016, there have been at least 50 incidents requiring help from Dandridge police, records show.
One section of Mountain View, referred to as the C Unit or Charlie Unit, houses young inmates considered to pose potential security risks.
Most violent incidents have occurred there, but not all. Charlie can hold 24 young men, a portion of the total population. Mountain View has a total of 84 beds.
Employees tell 10News only about 24 young men are presently at the center, in two units. Transfers to it have been falling, they say.
In January, a longtime guard at Mountain View said he was fired after calling emergency services to the facility.
Chris Davis told 10News he needed backup Jan. 6 dealing with four inmates who were fighting. He said he called multiple times for more assistance from guards at the facility and none arrived.
He said his arms began to cramp up and let go of the young man he was restraining to pull out his personal cell phone and call 911.
Within days, the 14-year center veteran had been fired.
His termination letter, reviewed by 10News, said: "Although TrueCore does not prohibit staff from contacting 911 when they perceive the situation warrants it, Supervisor Davis was not in a life or death emergency situation, which could not have been controlled by the increased staff presence."
In a statement, a TrueCore spokesman said the company does not comment on specific personnel matters.
"TrueCore values our close working relationship with local law enforcement. We have specific and longstanding policies about how and when staff may contact the local authorities for support in emergency situations. We will continue to partner with local law enforcement to keep our employees, the youth in our care, and the community safe," the spokesperson said.
A spokesperson for the Department of Children's Services said at the time it had not spoken to TrueCore about the incident but said, "we defer to TrueCore on all personnel matters."