Blue Ribbon Task Force Looks At Juvenile Crime In Tennessee

June 29, 2017

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) - Kids involved in crimes are getting a lot of attention in Tennessee. Some of it came right from the top Wednesday with what is called a Blue Ribbon task force.

The task force in Nashville is made up of lawmakers, prosecutors, and child advocates. Every aspect of kids and crime is on the table.

“I hope from this we are going to come up with ways to insure public safety and help the families of juveniles as well as juveniles themselves,” says TN House Speaker Beth Harwell.

Every city, every town across Tennessee likely has stories of kids and violent crime, like at an east Nashville community center riddled with bullet last March.

“They got kids in there. Getting that bad now,” said a witness. No one was hurt, but juveniles were blamed.

It’s part of a rising crime rate among kids that prompted a task force set up by House speaker Beth Harwell and Senate leader Mark Norris to look at the juvenile justice system.

What happens to these violent juveniles? Can they be reached before becoming young criminals?

“Some of our laws are antiquated, we certainly need to look more at rehabilitating and turning young lives around. So we are going to look at what the latest research shows,” says Harwell.

Harwell and Norris co-chair the group, which will be sorting through what works in keeping kids from repeating crimes while keeping the public safe. Pew Interest Group researchers told the taskforce that locking up juvenile offenders doesn’t work well in some other states.

Community supervision works better and saves money in other states, say Pew charitable trust researchers, who will help the task force.

“We want to focus our energies early in the process on the data and research,” says Norris.

The juvenile task force plans to meet several more times this year before recommending new legislation for lawmakers in January.

Some of the prosecutors at the task force say their main concern will be cutting recidivism rates, those juveniles who become repeat offenders.

Story Credit - Chris Bundgaard - WKRN

In addition to Speaker Harwell and Leader Norris, members of the task force will include:

  • The Honorable Bill Haslam (Governor, State of Tennessee) or his designee
  • The Honorable Vicky Snyder (Juvenile Court Judge, Henry County)
  • The Honorable Dan Michael (Juvenile Court Judge, Shelby County)
  • The Honorable Russell Johnson (District Attorney, 9th Judicial District)
  • Deborah Tate (Director, Administrative Office of the Courts)
  • Commissioner Bonnie Hommrich or designee (Tennessee Department of Children’s Services) or designee
  • Linda O’Neal (Executive Director, Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth)
  • Stacy Miller (Assistant District Attorney, Davidson County)
  • Christina Kleiser (Public Defender, Knox County)
  • Captain Gordon Howey (Youth Services Division, Metropolitan Nashville Police Department)
  • Dr. Altha Stewart (Director of the Center for Health in Justice Involved Youth, The University of Tennessee Health Science Center)
  • Commissioner Marie Williams or designee (Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services)
  • Commissioner Candice McQueen or designee (Tennessee Department of Education)
  • Camille Ratledge (Juvenile Probation Officer, Tennessee Department of Children’s Services)
  • Kathy Sinback (Juvenile Court Administrator, Davidson County)
  • Senator Brian Kelsey
  • Senator Doug Overbey
  • Representative Karen Camper
  • Representative William Lamberth