Office of Juvenile Justice
The Office of Juvenile Justice provides effective prevention and intervention services for high-risk youth and rehabilitation, treatment and training for delinquent youth while preserving and promoting community safety.
Our Core Principles
- Community Safety - Safety is central to all aspects of our practice. Supervision, services, and resource allocation are based on the results of a validated risk and needs assessment.
- Family-Centered/ Community Based - Policies, programs, and supervision model recognize the family and community as change agents for youth.
- Therapeutic Approach - Our service array for the youth and family is trauma-informed, encouraging cognitive transformation, improving social skills, and increasing community responsibility. Family participation plays a critical role in the therapeutic treatment of youth.
- Accountability - Partner with local courts to fairly and justly hold youth accountable for their actions.
- Data-Driven - Programs and services are evidenced-based demonstrating an improvement in outcomes for youth and a reduction in system penetration and recidivism.
- Innovation - We encourage our staff and partners to engage in continuous quality improvement developing new methods to promote success for youth and families.
What do state juvenile justice services look like in Tennessee?
Youth Served by State Probation
Tennessee law says that, after a youth has been found to be delinquent (in adult court terms - they were found guilty), the juvenile court can place a youth “under the supervision of the probation officer of the Department of Children's Services (DCS).”
Probation services are provided as preventive measures to divert youth who have broken the law from entering state custody.
Youth Placed in State Custody
Youth who are adjudicated delinquent and committed to state custody by the juvenile court judge 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.
DCS has 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, but 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
DCS tries to place youth in the least restrictive placement as possible. However, delinquent male youth, ages 13 to 18, in need of the highest level of security typically go to a state-operated facility called John S. Wilder (Wilder) Youth Development Center (YDC) or a privately run 24 bed facility called Mt. View; youth eligible for these facilities are those who have committed serious and/or violent felonies and community safety requires that they be placed in a structured and secure environment.
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."
Wilder YDC offers youth evidence-based treatment programs, in addition to vocational training and educational services such as general education, special education, and HiSET.