Life sentences for Tennessee juveniles are essentially death sentences

A documentary filmmaker urges lawmakers to reform sentencing guidelines for violent juvenile offenders.

Some lawyers, a juvenile court judge, state legislators from both major parties, and advocacy groups have been working to reform Tennessee’s juvenile sentencing laws.

This is because Tennessee’s laws concerning violent juvenile offenders are out of step with recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings.

Two bills (SB 2090/HB 2028) proposed in 2016 would have fixed this by making it possible for juveniles serving extraordinarily long sentences to be reviewed for possible early release after serving 15 years. Neither bill passed.

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The Davidson County Juvenile Court is tackling the issue of students loitering during school hours or not even showing up by giving hearings for those caught skipping.

The court started last year and has since processed 2,500 truancy petitions.

Getting kids off the street and into class is the goal of the daily hearing held every school day at the Metro Student Attendance Center (M-SAC) off Ellington Parkway in East Nashville.

A student is ordered to appear in front of Magistrate Jennifer Wade any time they are found out of school during school hours without being suspended or expelled.

The student’s parents or guardians must also appear.

“It definitely makes a difference for mom and dad, for sure, when we call and say, ‘You have to be here by 3 ‘o clock for our docket,” Magistrate Wade said. “Those calls are going to parents at work and to going to parents who thought their children were in school.”

When a police or court officer finds a student out of school, they take them to the M-SAC opposed to the juvenile detention center or giving them a citation.

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Juvenile court sees increase in youth gun violence


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – It can be something as small as a Facebook post to light the fuse.

A teen gets angry at someone else and when they confront the person there isn’t just a fist fight – instead there’s a shooting.

That scenario may seem far-fetched, but according to Davidson County Juvenile Court Judge Shelia Calloway, it is a reality.

“A lot of times I don’t think the youth is aware of how serious the consequences are when they decide to pick up a gun,” Judge Calloway said. “We see it in court. They get caught with a gun or for shooting someone and they don’t get the lifetime change it’s going to be for them.”

Judge Calloway took the bench two years ago. She is the mother of a 13-year-old son and knows the issues teens face in Nashville.

“We as adults have to do a better job of teaching our youth how to resolve conflicts without using violence,” she said. “A lot of times children fight about very trivia things.”

She continued, “I think about the times when I was young and the things I fought about, but back in the day we didn’t have access to guns.”

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What’s being done to address Metro schools’ 35% truancy rate

From The Tennessean

What’s being done to address Metro schools’ 35% truancy rate

It’s a category that more than 35 percent of students in Metro Nashville Public Schools fall into, one that many fear is a gateway leading students to future problems.Truancy.Students with five or more unexcused absences, those deemed truant in Tennessee, can get a ticket into the court system. A new program pairs those students with lawyers earlier in the court process, allowing volunteer attorneys to act as another advocate for the students.”There is no community safety net,” said Sara Beth Myers, president of AWAKE, a nonprofit group leading the charge on the new initiative. “And this program seeks to be that safety net, a buffer between a more serious problem by, not a member of the state or the judicial system, but a member of the community. An attorney who can step in and volunteer and represent that student in the truancy proceeding.”

Power of art, activities can reduce youth violence

Nashville is undeniably one of the rising cities of the South. With its rich cultural heritage, a booming food scene and thriving music industry, Music City continues to join the ranks of large creative cities that attract hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.

With its steadily growing influence, Nashville has the power to make a difference in any space thanks to our boundaries-pushing community. Specifically, artists and arts organizations in Nashville have shown time and time again that they go above and beyond when their support is needed. Now, the artists of this city are being called upon once again to address a challenge that is deeply impacting all of us — youth violence.

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Nashville plans initiatives to combat youth violence – NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV)

The shooting at the Music City Central bus station in downtown Nashville on Monday is an ugly but perfect example of young people responsible for and suffering from violence.

As police continue to sort out what happened, many are asking how Nashville gets its youth violence problem under control.

In 2015, more than half of the city’s murder victims were under the age of 25. More than half of the people arrested for those murders were also under 25.

In her State of Metro address on Friday, Mayor Megan Barry said she will announced aggressive funding requests for programs aimed at reducing youth violence.

“We really believe that if our youth are engaged in jobs, sports and activities, then they are not going to be involved in violence,” Barry said. “You put your budget where your priorities are, and you will see that on Friday.”

While the mayor would not reveal exactly what she will announce, the Nashville Youth Violence Task Force report offers some indication.

Perhaps the single biggest initiative is a public/private partnership aimed at getting 10,000 Nashville teenagers jobs by next summer.

Judge Sheila Calloway, the presiding juvenile court judge, said that program will absolutely make a difference.

“She wants to make sure that 10,000 kids have jobs by next summer. It’s a lofty goal, but we can do it,” Calloway said. “If we have 10,000 kids working side by side with adults that they can look up to, we are going to change 10,000 lives.”

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Students given second chance by courtroom of peers in Youth Court

kuv-02032016NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Several schools are giving students who commit minor crimes a second chance. It’s part of Tennessee’s Youth Court program.

In Youth Court, students serve as attorneys, jurors, court clerks and court reporters, every roll except the judge.

“It gives those students who are studying law and trying to get to a career in law, it gives them that real life opportunity of going through a court case and going through the court process,” Judge Sheila Calloway told News 2.

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