Looking For Solutions To “Broken” Tennessee Juvenile Justice System

Local News

A focus on higher risk kids and reaching minor offenders earlier are among the solutions discussed Wednesday for what’s been called a “broken” Tennessee system of juvenile justice.

The stories are all too familiar in every corner of the state, whether it be big city or small town: kids and crime. But what can be done about it, when the state system of prosecution and prevention is considered broken by many at the top.

“We are going to come up with ways to insure public safety and help the families of juveniles as well as juveniles themselves,” said Speaker Beth Harwell this past summer.

Tennessee lawmakers convened a task force that included prosecutors, child advocates, and numerous other stakeholders to talk with 400 individuals across the state. The Pew Charitable Trust helped lawmakers gather data about what’s working in other states. Wednesday, lawmakers heard what they called data driven findings.

“We need to be smarter with the data to see whether those youth in the system are being properly handled,” said Task Force Co-Chair Sen. Mark Norris.

Three broad solutions were discussed:

Prevent deeper involvement of lower level offenders in the justice system by earlier response

Focus on higher risk youth for safety and cost reasons

Sustain effective practices – what works in some places – with more effective oversight

A final report with more detail about potential legislation is expected next week.

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