Are changes to the juvenile justice system working to combat kid crime?

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The ages of children committing serious crimes in Nashville are getting younger. There have been changes to the Davidson County Juvenile Justice system that aim to keep the children who enter the system from coming back.

The Davidson County Juvenile Detention Center houses children who face serious charges. They are held there while awaiting trial or a transfer to the adult system.

At the time of our visit, 13 was the age of the youngest child being housed there.

There is about 40 youth staying at the center at any given time. They are in class six hours a day, and they have access to a library and recreation.

Over the last four years, Juvenile Court Judge Sheila Calloway has implemented many changes at the center.

In 2014, Judge Calloway got rid of the shackles the children would wear when being transferred. She also changed their outfits from orange jumpsuits to polos and pants.

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Youth arrests down so far this year in Nashville

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Through Nov. 4 of this year, 4,551 juveniles have been arrested in Nashville in 2017, according to publicly available data from the Metro Nashville Police Department.

This year’s arrests are down 4 percent compared to the 4,743 juveniles arrested during the same time period in 2016.

The number of arrests includes those for truancy and curfew violations, but it also includes arrests for more serious crimes like murder, robbery, and assault.

In 2017, the total number of arrests represents an average of about 15 youths arrested per day in Nashville.

Dawn Deaner is Nashville’s Public Defender. Her office is made up of roughly 45 attorneys who defend suspects that cannot afford a private lawyer.

She has served as the Public Defender since 2008 and previously served as an Assistant Public Defender in Nashville.

She reflected on youth crime during her time working in the public sector, saying, “I think what’s different today than where we were 20 years ago is that we have a much better understanding in the criminal justice system about brain development, about the fact that young people: their brains are not fully developed.”

Deaner went on to say, “I believe that how our children behave is a reflection more on us as adults than it is of our children. So, I think recognizing that we are responsible for caring for all of our children is something important, and I think we are headed in that direction just by coming to understand more about how brain development works and also how traumatic experiences in childhood impact us as human beings.”

So far in 2017, the highest number of arrests of Nashville youth have happened in Metro police’s East and South precincts.

Around 800 juveniles have been arrested in each precinct this year, which is up slightly compared to last year

NASHVILLE, Tenn.(WKRN) – There is a gang in North Nashville that most parents with troubled young boys may want their son to join.

Leaders in North Nashville hope to change lives and fight back against teen crime with a special program. It’s called Gentlemen and Not Gangsters (G.A.N.G).

It was a graduation with extra special meaning– a graduation, that’s helping young men ages 12 to 17, get their lives back on track.


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Tennessee experts spar over prison terms for juveniles

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — There is wide disagreement in Tennessee on whether the state is violating recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions banning mandatory life-without-parole sentences for offenders under 18. That’s because judges and juries have a choice in sentencing, but that choice is between life in prison or life with the possibility of parole after serving 51 years — which one leading advocate calls cruel.

In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed mandatory life without parole for juveniles convicted of murder. Last year, the court said the ruling applied to the more than 2,000 inmates already serving such sentences nationwide, and that all but the rare irredeemable juvenile offender should have a chance at parole. The rulings say juveniles are different because of poor judgment based on their age, their susceptibility to negative influences and their greater capacity for change.

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The judicial system must regain the public’s trust

From The Tennessean

Outgoing Metro Councilman Sam Colemans promises to his colleagues Tuesday, the night they selected him to be a judge, are commitments that all judicial and law enforcement institutions must urgently embrace anew. “I will work to restore the integrity of the judiciary” he said. “I will be fair.” There is an expectation that in the courts and police precincts across the nation that justice will be blind, but that historically has not happened, and recent scandals and news events have shaken the public’s faith.Perception becomes reality even if the people leading our institutions have the best of intentions.
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What Nashville should know about restorative justice

From The Tennessean

Davidson County District Attorney General Glenn Funk said Thursday he wants city leaders to promote funding for a restorative justice program in Nashville.Mayor Megan Barry and other officials have already signaled their support for such an initiative, and a pilot program is being developed in Juvenile Court.In an interview, Funk said that funding could bring the pilot closer to fruition. He said a restorative justice program “can create a more fair justice system and better serve the community of Nashville.”Here are the basics of what restorative justice would look like. Expert calls restorative justice ‘more victim-focused than the traditional court system.’
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G.A.N.G. program aims to get Nashville teens on right track

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Dozens of teens filled Mt. Carmel Missionary Baptist Church on their first step in a long rehabilitation process.

They gathered as part of the Gentleman and Not Gangsters, or G.A.N.G, program, which had its orientation Wednesday evening.

“It’s an extensive 12-week program designed to change the mindset of the young men that are in the program,” explained Bishop Marcus Campbell

The program is a joint effort between Mt. Carmel Missionary and and Metro-Nashville’s juvenile system.

The orientation, though, is the first crucial step.

“We like to let them know what to be looking forward to, and what we’re not gonna have for them in the class,” said Campbell.

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