Madison youth detention facility passed state inspections prior to escapes

Governor Kay Ivey told WAAY 31 she is gathering information about how it happened. She said the state will work to make sure it doesn't happen again.

Posted: Aug 21, 2019 10:08 PM
Updated: Aug 21, 2019 10:41 PM

The Sequel TSI youth detention facility in Madison passed more than one state inspection in 2019 before three teens escaped on July 25th. That prompted Madison City Council to revoke the center's business license.

Both the Alabama Department of Human Resources and the Alabama Department of Youth Services inspected Sequel this year. The licensing departments handled the inspections. Every inspection got a passing grade.

Stephen Walls lives in the neighborhood behind Sequel. He was surprised when WAAY 31 told him Sequel passed so many inspections.

"I think the inspection's probably weak, right? Maybe they're not covering everything they need to cover," he said.

Back in March, the Department of Human Resources inspected Sequel for a bi-annual review. The department said the only violation was some bad mattresses that Sequel replaced afterward. 

From July 22 to July 24th, the Department of Youth Services did an annual inspection. The department said Sequel passed, but one day later, three teens escaped.

During the public meeting where Madison City Council revoked Sequel's business license, Madison Police Chief David Jernigan said the teens exploited an area without a camera before hopping a fence without barbed wire. They got on the roof and then, "walk over on this side of the roof, jump down into an unsecured area and then escape," said Chief Jernigan.

After Madison police caught the teens that same night, Chief Jernigan went to inspect the fence the teens used to get on the roof.

"The directors of the facility told me that they added the wire the morning of my arrival," Chief Jernigan said, while showing Madison City Council a picture of barbed wire on top of the fence.

Right now, Governor Ivey is gathering information about how the facility could pass inspections but be vulnerable to escapes. She said the state will work to make sure this doesn't happen again.

Walls said he likes Governor Ivey taking a proactive stance. He would like to see the state take their knowledge from other secure facilities and apply it to places like Sequel.

"The same security concerns should be shared across prisons and these types of facilities for youth," said Walls.

Sequel has two other secure facilities like the one in Madison in North Alabama. One is in Courtland and one is in Owens Cross Roads. WAAY 31 has asked Sequel how many escapes have happened at those facilities. We are waiting on a response.

The Department of Youth Services and the Department of Human Resources are actively moving the kids in Sequel out of the facility and taking them to other locations in the state. Both departments said the kids will be out no later than Friday. The City of Madison is cooperating with Sequel and the state to give them the two extra days to vacate the facility.

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