Teens riot, attack guards at youth correctional facility - Western Mass News - WGGB/WSHM

Teens riot, attack guards at youth correctional facility

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DCS officials said 24 teens escaped from the building but were not able to get outside the facility's gates. DCS officials said 24 teens escaped from the building but were not able to get outside the facility's gates.
Teens are accused of using fire extinguishers to break windows at the facility. Teens are accused of using fire extinguishers to break windows at the facility.
Teens sit in handcuffs outside of the Woodland Hills facility on Thursday morning. Teens sit in handcuffs outside of the Woodland Hills facility on Thursday morning.

A group of teenagers started a violent riot and broke out of the Woodland Hills Youth Development Center in Bordeaux late Wednesday night.

Officials said approximately 24 teens got out of the building, but none were able to get past the facility's gates.

Department of Children's Services officials said it all started just before midnight during a shift change when 10 teens were able to kick out doors and get outside. They then allegedly started throwing sticks and rocks at guards.

The teenagers reportedly used fire extinguishers to smash windows, helping others escape their rooms.

Officials said some of the teens came outside because of the fumes from the fire extinguishers but were not involved in the riot.

This is the same facility where 32 teenagers escaped on Monday night during a shift change. Two guards were injured in that incident, and six of those escapees are still at large. Click here to see photos of the escapees.

The riot occurred just hours after a court hearing where 20 Woodland Hills escapees pleaded guilty to escape.

DCS officials said the teens escaped from their doors on Thursday the same way they did on Monday. They tried to fix the doors since Monday's escape but that fix did not work.

"They found a breach in the door system here, so they knocked out the bottom panel and went out," DCS Commissioner Jim Henry said.

The riot went on for at least two hours, and officials with the Department of Corrections and the Tennessee Highway Patrol responded to help break it up.

"I think things were handled as well as they could be. I think we had a coordinated effort through our partnerships, and I think everything worked out as well as it could," said Monica Middlebrooks, deputy commissioner at DCS.

The 10 teens accused of instigating the riot were put in handcuffs and taken by bus to the Middle Tennessee Juvenile Detention Center in Columbia. According to officials, these 10 teens were also involved in Monday's escape and were in court on Wednesday.

DCS officials said some guards sustained minor injuries during the disturbance, but none of the teens were injured.

"There are lots of rules that govern handling juveniles that are different from regular police force. We can have no guns inside the facility, we have no stun guns, the way we do is try to talk these kids through these situations," Henry said.

DCS officials said on Thursday morning they are short about 14 staff members at Woodland Hills.

Henry pointed out this facility is run by DCS, not the Department of Corrections, so they're limited in what they can and cannot do at the facility.

He said this needs to change.

"It's gotten worse because of drugs; it's gotten worse because the kids are tougher; it's gotten worse because we're looking at antiquated laws where we can't lock people up at night, so we've got to change those," Henry said.

The riot marks the third major security breach at the youth correctional facility in recent months.

In May, a group of teens broke out of a window inside a dorm room. Officials say they flipped a switch, which allowed others to break out. About half a dozen teens got out of the building and went into the yard. Shortly after, they were taken back into custody. Several security changes were made after the incident.

In 2011, two teens attacked a kitchen worker, stole keys and escaped. They made it all the way to Fayette County before they were caught.

Ten years ago, 19 offenders took over the front courtyard at Woodland Hills armed with whatever they could find. One by one, all 19 were caught without injury, but 20 staff members were hurt. A 2004 report found several problems at the facility contributed to the riot, including a shortage of emergency equipment, not having an emergency coordinator and an overall lack of staff members. The incident led to new rules concerning guard to juvenile ratios.

On Wednesday, the Channel 4 I-Team obtained exclusive video that was recorded earlier this year inside Woodland Hills. In one video, you can see a party going on in the common area outside of a teen's dorm while other inmates do back flips off a table. Another video shows a guard chasing after a teen and appears to hit him on the head before other guards rush in. A third video shows students once more in a common area. One of the students throws a chair, and sets off a chain reaction. The I-Team learned that DCS has launched an internal affairs investigation because of these videos.

Last year, the Channel 4 I-Team obtained photographs and video of guards at the facility sleeping at work instead of watching the dangerous juveniles they were paid to supervise. The guards were in a section of the facility called "the booth," where they monitor on televisions teenage juveniles in their dormitories.

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