MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Tennessee State Representative G.A. Hardaway Sr. recently introduced two pieces of legislation aimed to decrease youth violence with intervention methods as early as kindergarten.
Rep. Hardaway’s House Bill 94 would allow juvenile courts to have jurisdiction over individuals until age 25 and offer rehabilitation so individuals can have a smoother reentry process.
“It’s merely a case of where we looked and said what’s missing? What is it that we’re not doing on the front end that we could do a better job,” Rep Hardaway said.
He’s also introduced House Bill 98, the Representative Barbara Ward Cooper Act. Rep. Hardaway said it will be a significant piece of legislation because it has children address conflict resolution skills first hand.
“It’s the most significant piece of legislation I think you’ll see long-term, that we’ve turned out because it actually address the basic issues on the front end of why children are having conflict, chaos, especially violent encounters with each other,” Rep Hardaway said.
He said House Bills 94 and 98 go hand in hand and while there are programs currently in place to rehabilitate adults who are in the criminal justice system – there aren’t many for children and younger adults
“Those children and then those young adults from age 25 down, don’t have the opportunities that children would have in juvenile court or that mature adults would have in the adult criminal justice system,” Rep Hardaway said.
ABC24 asked Representative Hardaway how this would impact young people, like those charged with the murder of Rev. Eason-Williams--
“There are some ages, 14 for instance, where first- and second-degree murder, in the current law you would be eligible for transfer to the adult criminal justice system," Rep Hardaway said.
If passed, the bill would give them another option.
“It does us no good to transfer young folks over to the adult prison where they’re gonna be isolated, they’re gonna suffer psychological, they’re gonna come out definitely worse individuals,” Rep Hardaway said.
He goes on to say in some cases, these individuals could even come out of the adult juvenile system worse criminals.
In order for progress to be made, the bill of course needs to be signed into law.
Representative Hardaway said they attempted to pass this when former D.A. Amy Weirich was in office but it took too long to work out the kinks. He’s hopeful this will be signed into law in a reasonable amount of time.