Juvenile Justice Reform

The Problem

The majority of delinquent children placed in out-of-home facilities were convicted of unruly offenses (such as running away or violating curfew), simple misdemeanors, or technical violations. In fact, across Tennessee, there are more than 1,100 children in state custody for unruly or delinquent offenses. The task force further found that in the last five years, the amount of time that children spend in these facilities away from their homes and families has increased by 10 percent. It also found that the average time a child will spend under state probation supervision has increased 18 percent during that time period. The task force also discovered significant disparities in the outcomes of juveniles from one jurisdiction to another. The disparities are attributed to a lack of quality services available in certain jurisdictions, as well as lack of statewide guidelines.

The Solution

The state should establish clear statewide guidelines to ensure that youth are not treated differently from one part of the state to another. In order to ensure that children remain in their homes and with their families whenever possible, community-based programs should be prioritized over out-of-home placements, especially for unruly and minor delinquent offenses. Finally, there must be guidelines as to the amount of time a child spends in the juvenile justice system.

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