published Monday, March 26th, 2012

No reprieve for Taft Youth Development Center

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    The Taft Youth Center is located north of Pikeville, Tenn.
    Photo by Jake Daniels.
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The announcement late last week that employees at the Taft Youth Development Center in Pikeville will soon receive 90-day notices, and that their jobs will be eliminated as of July 1, strongly suggests that all discussion about the future of the center that ably serves the needs of some of Tennessee's most troubled young men is over. Gov. Bill Haslam, the Department of Children's Services and other cost-cutting officials and bureaucrats appear to have carried the day. Never mind that state officials have failed to make a case for closure. Politics, it seems, triumphs over reason.

There is apparently a bit of wiggle room about closing the facility. July 1, for the moment, is a tentative date, but only because Haslam's budget -- which contains no funding for the facility -- has not been approved yet. There's little doubt, though, that he'll get his way. He's shown no interest in the continued operation of Taft and his supporters control the state's legislative process. Given that, it seems that Taft's fate -- and the employment future of its trained and efficient his staff -- is almost surely a done deal barring some last minute reprieve.

There's little hope that will occur. Haslam and Children's Services officials have turned a deaf ear to those who correctly cite the many reasons for its continued operation. The closure, then, seems inevitable. Though they can't say so publicly, those elected officials and private citizens who have advocated for Taft in recent months now privately admit their efforts have borne no fruit, and that additional advocacy is unlikely to produce a positive result.

The Children's Services Department says the 90-day notices are being sent to ease the difficulties unemployment will bring to Taft workers. Officials additionally say that they are trying to time the end of employment at Taft so that those who will lose their jobs can seek employment at the nearby Bledsoe County Correctional Complex, a state prison for adults that is scheduled to open next year. That's some comfort for the job market there. State officials say they hope to hire displaced Taft employees for the new facility if appropriations allow. Hopefully, that will be the case.

Even so, the state seems to have given little thought to the real costs of closing Taft. It clearly has overlooked the vital programs and training provided there for troubled youth, and the proximity to helpful family members who support their rehabilitation.

Many of Taft's former residents testify to the center's merit. They are quick to say they enjoy productive lives now because of the time they spent at Taft. The state, too, has ignored evidence put forth by area legislators, judges, case workers and others that closing the center is not financially viable and that it remains a valuable asset to the community where it is located and to the region it serves.

None of that seems to matter. Haslam and the GOP controlled legislature need to balance a budget adversely affected by politicians' long-standing refusal to replace Tennessee's almost total reliance on an unfair and regressive sales tax for revenue with a more equitable income tax.

As a result, the state -- yet again -- must whack appropriations without regard for the damage the reduction in funds will cause. In the case of the Taft Youth Development Center, it will bring considerable harm to the troubled population and to supportive families. That's far too high a price to pay for the fiscal and bureaucratic short-sightedness that are the direct cause for Taft's almost certain closure.

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RealDeal said...

Yea Haslam and O'Day, screw all of the loyal employees who have given their whole lives to the welfare of our youthful offenders and the State of Tennessee. We are being treated like a wad of chewing gum on the bottom of your $400 dollar shoes! I have no respect whatsoever for you or any of your minions! You have listened to NOTHING ANYONE has had to say, you have condoned all the lies and fuzzy math, and your method of opeation sickens me beyond words.
The day will come when you will pray that you have Taft back and the employees who have made it what it is. I hope I get to see this day. I feel like our state is being run as a dictatorship, and your actions and lack of forethought prove it!
Enjoy all your big paychecks Nashville, because the day will come when all the corruption and dirty politics will rear their ugly heads. Guess what you are gonna look like? The f-ing idots that you have proven to be. Oh, and for the other state employees who have failed to speak to Taft employees through all of this, you can go elsewhere. It's your turn next and it WILL happen. This administration has got to make its money through privitization, off the backs of the lowly taxpayers. Get ready for crime to rise, more detention centers being built, institutions being destroyed and people getting hurt because it is coming. Hope the powers that be can sleep at night because it will be on them!

March 26, 2012 at 6:41 p.m.
pikeville said...

My thoughts exactaly Real Deal. It looks like the public and politicians would put a stop to the rich getting richer at the expense of Tennessee's troubled youth!!!!

March 26, 2012 at 10:20 p.m.
mountainboy said...

CHURCH! Tell it all and dont hold nothing back ther real deAL. They wont listen to anything because changing thier mindwould takethier pocket. Haslam and the ACA are a gang just like the Taft boys only they wear big money suits and use big titles and party votes to get rich it is still robbery without the gun. They just found a way to rob Tennessee civilians and make them feel good about it! Gone is the respect for Republican Bill Haslam that i never really had anyway. I mean U got a 90 year old facility that does a better job than any other facility in the state, or nation for that matter and u want o shut it down? Why do u ask? Only one reason i can think of. Cut the beast off at the head and the body dies, then they will say that keepin the youth costs to much and they will contract those youth out to Haslam ole buddy ACA, wash thier hands of the juvenile problem and get a big kick back come budget time when they shell out money to the private sector. I might be from the country, COUNTRY DUMB as Ray Charles put it, but I got u figured out Mr. Haslam, u sly devil, u dont even deserve to wear that Tennessee Orange because u have no idea what it means to be a volunteer. Everybody thought the Alamo was a lost cause to lol!

March 27, 2012 at 9:51 a.m.
RealDeal said...

I have never neen known for holding back, that's for sure. And I'm gonna divulge a little more information for the world to know. For MANY years, the powers that be have been trying to close Taft for a variety of reasons. Most of the reasons were based on unfounded allegations of prejudice. That is BS! If anything, Taft employees have been the victims of reverse discrimination because of those allegations, and some of the higher ups in Nashville made no secret of the fact that they would close us. Most of them are too chicken $hit to even come to Taft because of all the lies. I would put the staff of Taft up against any other state institution when it comes to helping people out whether it's a co-worker, a parent, a visitor, or a child in custody. Who else can say that? There is an endless list of the kind acts displayed by Taft employees, but I guess that doesn't count anymore than the clients we serve. As the saying goes, they may win the battle but end up losing the war. When this happens, I'm gonna have to say "YOU WERE WARNED"!

March 27, 2012 at 11:27 a.m.
Crossville said...

First they started out with they are "building a crosswalk for Taft employees to Southeast Regional Correctional Facility". Now it's "Officials additionally say that they are trying to time the end of employment at Taft so that those who will lose their jobs can seek employment at the nearby Bledsoe County Correctional Complex..." HUH? Which is it? Are they helping the employees get employment there or not? The emlpoyees at Taft are still hopeful that something will turn in their favor and keep the facility open so they don't lose their jobs they have strived so hard to be good at.

March 27, 2012 at 6:41 p.m.
mountainboy said...

I HAVE BEEN SERVED! Thanks to the Dept. O'Day Childrens Services the stress level has just increased. Not that they care, just another step toward gettin them Republican pockets fatter. I vote either way by the way, but it will be alot harder to punch a R from here on out. HASLAM is in the process of makin history herin the state of Tennessee, but I am afraid it not the history he wanting to be know for. I am guessin that the Politicians vote for party lines in April, so we should start planning Taft funeral now.

March 30, 2012 at 10:24 a.m.
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