Madison City Council revokes business license for juvenile detention facility

Madison City Council revokes business license for juvenile detention facility

MADISON, Ala. (WAFF) - The Madison City Council has pulled the business license for the Sequel TSI/Three Springs juvenile facility.

The Madison City Council voted 7-0 to revoke the business license and give the facility seven days to leave.

Madison’s city attorney recommended 30 days for the revocation, and the business requested a year.

This follows the latest incident of juveniles running away last month.

Madison City Attorney Megan Zingarelli said she expects the facility to challenge the vote in Madison County Court.

If the vote stands, she said the facility will have to work with the Department of Human Resources and Department of Youth Services to determine where the juveniles will go.

The company operates four other facilities in Alabama, in Owens Cross Roads, Courtland, Montgomery, and Tuskegee.

The spokesman for the facility said the company will be looking at all options in response to the vote.

A pattern of escapes

Madison Police Chief David Jernigan laid out the recent history of escapes at the facility, beginning with a 2017 escape where two juveniles allegedly murdered a construction worker.

Following that incident, the Madison City Council voted to allow the facility to continue to operate. It put added conditions on the business license.

Jernigan said on Sept. 7, 2018, one juvenile was being transferred to the Three Springs facility and jumped out of the car. A Madison Police Officer happened to be on the scene, and was able to talk the juvenile into entering the police car and going to the facility.

He said on March 5, 2019, a juvenile was being taken to Madison Hospital by one employee. The juvenile escaped, and was later found two miles away on Hughes road.

He said the juveniles July’s escape climbed a gate, and were able to get on top of the roof. They jumped down from there.

Jernigan said the facility had put barbed wire on the gate by the time he visited the next day.

Zingarelli said the facility did not call 911 for 16 minutes following its discovery of the escape.

She said it’s unclear how much time passed between the escape and the facility’s discovery.

Public response

More than a dozen Madison residents and politicians spoke passionately against the facility.

Some expressed concern for the more than 50 juveniles, but the safety of Madison’s children was the main theme.

Stewart Sanderson lives behind and facility and brought his son up to the podium. He said the facility is a constant concern.

“[The neighborhood kids] are doing the right thing. They abiding by the laws. They’re going to school. They’re making contributions to the community. They shouldn’t have to live in fear,” he said.

He said he’s happy the facility has been given a short timeline to leave, but is concerned it will incentivize the juveniles to try to escape in the near future.

“In the minds of these juveniles that are in there, what’s going to go through their mind? We’ve got to move out of here in 7 days. You’ve got to go somewhere else. To me I’m going to be even more heightened about what’s going on around my house, and I’ve got to protect it," he said.

Company’s response

Sequel Senior Vice President Kenny Roberts said pulling the license would undermine the rehabilitation the juveniles are going through.

He said the company has been in contact with the Department of Human Resources and the Department of Youth Services about potential relocation, but such a process would take a year to do so effectively.

“While many of our kids are here for making poor decisions, they finally have a home where people care enough to help them learn and make better decisions," he said.

Sequel attorney Brad Ryder accompanied Roberts, and warned that Madison would be interfering with a state sponsored program by pulling the license.

“You’re talking minors who are wards of the state,” he said.

“This is where the state has selected to put them. As a result Sequel has an obligation to make sure they are accounted for, and they have the services they require.”

What’s next?

If left unchallenged in court, the facility has seven days to close its doors and relocate more than 50 juveniles.

If the facility fails to do so, Zingarelli said it would have committed a misdemeanor code violation.

She said it’s unclear how the city would respond at that point.

Three Springs is now tasked with finding new locations for wards that the facility describes as

  • Males, age 12 to 18 years old
  • Full-scale IQ above 70
  • Impulsive/irresponsible behavioral tendencies
  • Denies and/or justifies negative behavior
  • Has problems with anger and aggression
  • Demonstrates a low degree of empathy
  • Lacks self-discipline
  • Exhibits poor coping skills
  • Is non-compliant with authority
  • May have been adjudicated by the Juvenile Justice system

The facility has been in operation since 1996.

Copyright 2019 WAFF. All rights reserved.