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Juvenile Justice


Youth who are adjudicated delinquent in Tennessee are placed in a variety of settings where the department can begin to address these youths’ needs. Many of the youth have been victims of trauma, abuse and neglect themselves.

The Youth Development Centers offer youth evidence-based treatment programs, in addition to vocational training and educational services such as general education, special education and HiSET.

What is Juvenile Justice in Tennessee?

The most serious offenders typically go to one of Tennessee’s three youth development centers. In general, these youth have committed at least three felonies, and community safety requires that they be placed in settings that are designed to be escape-proof. They have tall security fences and heavy steel doors throughout the facilities. Visitors are checked for weapons and contraband when they enter.

For most of our youth, these types of settings are too restrictive. We employ a network of community-based facilities around the state. These are typically small facilities that treat youth closer to home. Many of these private-provider facilities specialize in the types of services they offer. For instance, one might treat youth with substance-abuse problems, while another address kids with conduct disorders. As at the youth development centers, the focus is on therapeutic care and education. 

Females who are adjudicated delinquent receive treatment through a network of providers.

Secure Care for Delinquent Youth

Youth who are adjudicated delinquent after breaking the law are placed with the Juvenile Justice division at the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services.

While some of them may have committed serious crimes, the courts have not given up on these youth, and DCS is entrusted with putting these young people on the right track and to remove from them “the taint of criminality."

They are placed in a variety of settings where the department can begin to address these youths’ needs. Many of them have been trauma victims themselves. We offer a range of mental-health services, treatment programs, in addition to a highly effective educational program and vocational training.

We recognize that our youth have dangerous crimes on their records. We do much of our work in hardware-secure facilities that are designed to keep kids and communities safe.

Service Philosophy

Tennessee’s Youth Development Center philosophy combines the safety and security of a hardware secure facility with the consistency and structure of a well-trained treatment staff who work in direct contact with small groups of youth to create supportive and encouraging relationships. This balance between security and evidence-based treatment intervention supports a culture where staff and youth feel safe. The goal is to improve youth’s behavior and increase their social and independent living skills while promoting stable, permanent connections to family and caring adults that will allow them to be successful upon their return to their community.