Woodland Hills waited to contact police about escape - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Woodland Hills waited to contact police about escape


The Woodland Hills Youth Development Center and the Department of Children's Services are having a hard time explaining why it took so long to contact police about 30 escapees.

Officials at Woodland Hills said they knew they had trouble at 11 p.m. Monday, but did not call police until 12:39 a.m. Tuesday.

Nearly a third of the entire facility escaped during those 99 minutes.

DCS said the juveniles were out of bed and causing trouble at 11 p.m., but did not notice they were gone until 12:39 a.m.

DCS said staff was scattered as they tried to regain control of the facility.

A high-ranking Metro police official who asked not to be identified said that staff at Woodland Hills called after they knew exactly how many juveniles escaped.

The official added they should have called the second they knew someone had escaped, before they did a bed check.

DCS Superintendent of Facilities Joel Player said DCS is immediately looking into its procedures.

This is not the first time something along these lines has happened in the facility.

Last May, four teens attacked guards with table legs, pipes and pieces of metal. They were arrested by Metro police as they approached the facility's fence.

Metro police have received 18 emergency calls from Woodland Hills this year.

Many are asking if Woodland Hills is an appropriate facility to house the most dangerous and violent teenagers in the state.

"That facility was never meant to take care of those kinds of children," said Rep. Sherry Jones (D-Nashville). "They knew it when they put those kids in there. I guess it just wasn't important, so they didn't do anything about it."

Two years ago, DCS closed it's Pikeville Detention Center that specialized in violent teens. The facility did not have issues with escapes and assaults.

Those juveniles were moved to Woodland Hills. In less than two years, there have been many problems.

In 2004, juveniles temporarily took over the facility and injured more than a dozen guards. The incident led to new rules concerning guard to juvenile ratios. The most violent juveniles went to Pikeville, but that's no longer an option.

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