Uprising at Wilder John S. Youth Development Center, Tennessee

Uprising at Wilder John S. Youth Development Center, Tennessee

Wilder John S. Youth Development Center, Somerville, Tennessee
September 22, 2019

An unknown number of youth detainees at the Wilder John S Youth Development Center in Somerville, Tennessee participated in an uprising that spread between multiple pods of the facility. Detainees damaged ceilings, doors, mirrors, and surveillance cameras and attempted to break out windows with cinder blocks.

According to a press release issued by Mark Davidson, District Attorney General, the disturbance involved “numerous” youths and 11 18-year-olds. The juveniles involved in the uprising were transferred to other facilities, “while further charging decisions are made” the press release stated.

Jennifer Donnals, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services, declined to comment on the specific number of youth detainees involved and the precise content of the incident in an email to Perilous.

The uprising started around 5 p.m. and was subdued by authorities approximately 4 hours later.

At the time of the incident, Wilder held 109 juvenile detainees, all of whom were accounted for following the incident, according to Donnals.

The following day, eleven 18-year-olds were charged for their alleged participation in the events. Charges include inciting a riot, escape and vandalism. The charges are pending in the Fayette County General Sessions Court and the individuals are being held on $250,000 bonds.

In 2013, a Department of Justice report found that the incidents of sexual assault of juveniles by staff at the John S. Wilder Youth Development Center was 19.5%, more than twice the national average. All of the incidents of sexual misconduct reflected in this average were perpetrated by staff, not by staff and fellow juveniles combined, as reported by local media.



Law enforcement called for disturbance at youth facility in Somerville“, WREG, September 22, 2019.

Eleven 18-year-olds charged with inciting riot, vandalism after incident at youth facility“, WREG, September 23, 2019.

State youth facility in Fayette County damaged in Sunday riot; 11 teenagers charged as adults“, WMC, September 23, 2019.

11 teens arrested after ‘disturbance’ at Fayette County youth center“, WMC, September 23, 2019.

Press Release Wilder Youth Development Center, Mark E. Davidson District Attorney General 25th Judicial District, September 23, 2019.


Sexual Victimization in Juvenile Facilities Reported by Youth, 2012“, Department of Justice, June 2013.

Juveniles, workers from inside detention center recently prosecuted“, WMC, June 13, 2013.

Somerville detention facility holds high rate of sexual victimization“, WMC, June 13, 2013.

Article published: 10/3/19; Updated 10/5/19
Header photo source: WMC