DANDRIDGE (WATE) – The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services has announced a plan to convert Mountain View Youth Development Center into a privately operated facility.

The facility would be focused on mental health needs, jobs skills and trauma-informed care of juvenile justice youth. Thirty-nine juveniles are currently housed at the facility, well below the 144-bed capacity for which it was originally designed. The state says this is in line with a national trend to de-emphasize correctional-style institutions in favor of programs that can treat and educate youth while keeping them closer to home.

One plan would be to contract with a current DCS provider for a 60-bed level three facility that would be “staff secure.” Youth would have freedom to move around inside the facility and the razor wire perimeter fence would come down. There would also be a 24-bed hardware-secure section where youth would be kept behind steel doors and a razor wire fence. DCS says some youth are in custody for more serious crimes and are not ready for less restrictive placement.

The department estimates the changes could free up to $3 million a year for prevention services to keep youth from entering the juvenile justice system in the first place.

Mountain View’s current 120 employees would have the option of working for the new provider or transferring to other jobs within DCS or other state agencies.

No provider has been selected as of yet.