DA Wants Change Following Escape

Tarus Green escaped Sunday from the Savannah Regional Youth Detention Center.
Tarus Green escaped Sunday from the Savannah Regional Youth Detention Center.

The police manhunt continues for a Savannah teenager who recently escaped from the Savannah Regional Youth Detention Center. Tarus Green, 17, escaped Sunday morning. Police say Green and his fellow Turf Boy gang members were involved in several shootings this past April.

Police have assigned specific officers to look for Green. They say he may be armed and he is dangerous.

While police continue to search for Green, juvenile court officials say his escape may have lasting consequences for other violent juvenile offenders.

Green was only 16 when police say he committed these violent crimes. Even though he is 17 now--a legal adult--he was still incarcerated at the youth detention center. But if a local DA has his way, that may soon change.

Police and court officials believe Green had no problem moving a basketball goal, scaling a 14-foot fence and leaping to his freedom on Sunday. There are big gaps along the fence where there is no razor wire, and guards were obviously not paying attention.

Jaren Coffee's young cousin has been in and out of the youth detention center. "No one was watching and that's bad," he said.

What else is lacking at the youth detention center? "Right now, what's lacking is Tarus Green," said assistant district attorney Jeff Hendrix. He says older teens who commit violent crimes should not be housed at a youth detention center in the first place.

"I think the community would be safer if violent offenders were kept in one location," he said.

That's the Chatham County jail.

"I feel like when they're 17, even though they were younger, ship them over there," Jaren Coffee told us.

At the jail, there are secondary fences surrounding the facility and razor wire covers every inch. The Department of Juvenile Justice used to have a contract with the Chatham County Sheriff's Department to house violent juvenile offenders, but that contract ran out three years ago. Now the jail is using that space to house its own inmates and ease jail overcrowding.

But Hendrix says, if he's able to change Georgia's juvenile code, these violent kids will have to be kept somewhere other than a youth detention center.

The Department of Juvenile Justice says it is still investigating Green's escape. Once they finish, they will decide if any changes need to be made at the youth detention center.

Last November, a 16-year-old escaped when a guard accidentally opened an outside door. The boy climbed over the razor wire fence by putting his shoes on his hands. He turned himself in five weeks later.

Reported by: Michelle Paynter, mpaynter@wtoc.com