By now the escape and uprising at Woodland Hills Youth Development Center in Nashville is national news and probably a study case for intervention and prevention at similar teenager detention facilities nationwide. There are so many questions being asked and so many factors contributing to this massive embarrassment. One of the major questions is why wasn’t Woodland Hills a high-level lockup facility, considering that its’ perspective inhabitants must have been convicted of at least three felonies. Better yet, with the history of some of the boys, why was the facility put so close to a residential community? It shows very little regard for the feelings and safety of the residents in that area.
In fact, it should have never been zoned for that area. But it should not be surprising because undesirable facilities are often zoned for predominately Black communities. Although subjected to anxiety and stress, residents have been extremely lucky that none of the escapees have caused them physical harm.
The circumstances leading to the unsavory events at Woodland Hills have to be transparently revealed and thoroughly analyzed. It must be a learning experience with effective solutions. No temporary band aide approach should be acceptable in the future. The public must be privy to the truth. There must be no cover-ups, because it is obvious that this powder keg didn’t just happen. It had time to proliferate.
There is ample blame to go around from the administration, staff, and occupants. However, we the public are equally to blame for lack of adequate guidance and supervision—allowing some of the young men to grow up manifesting unparalleled disdain for their communities and authority. Many of the bad choices being made by these young men can be attributed to the ever increasing lack of fathers or positive male role models in their lives. It is also no secret that many of our young boys (especially boys of color) are systematically targeted, creating a disproportionate number of Black young men being incarcerated, often for profit. No one is advocating no consequences for negative behavior, but the laws should be inclusive of all violators, regardless of their color, family status, connections, or zip code.
There are many people questioning whether there is any real effective rehabilitating going on in these corrective facilities. Is rehabilitation just a façade? One really wonders if the person rehabilitated is really forgiven. It seems they are perpetually targeted and labeled throughout life. Many feel those incarcerated in these juvenile detention centers only become better criminals.
Hopefully, the truth will emerge about what really took place igniting the chaos at Woodland Hills and adequate and secure policies and procedures will be put in place to eliminate future uprising. But in all honesty, this was a wakeup call for Nashville’s Black community to stop talking about the disproportionate incarceration of young Black boys and to actively act to personally change this scenario. We must provide more mentors and Black male role models for our young boys to emulate. Positive involvement must be provided to boys at an early age before they are influenced by negative peer pressure. Regardless of one’s wishes and hopes, older juveniles are often incorrigible, showing no remorse for horrendous acts or hope for rehabilitation. Let’s act now and help save our young men before it is too late. Remember there was a time when it took a village/community to raise a child. Let’s rebuild that village. Act now. Time is of the essence. The writing is on the wall.