Nashville Juvenile System Needs Community Support

Juvenile Court Judge Sheila Calloway
Juvenile Court Judge Sheila Calloway

By Tribune Staff Writer

NASHVILLE, TN — The recent spotlight placed upon five juveniles accused of murder in Nashville is a community issue that goes beyond the tragic happenings of the victim and the minors involved.  Regardless of how this sad situation is viewed, critics on both sides of the issue meet in the middle and admit that Nashville indeed has a rapidly escalating juvenile crime problem.  The hands of the parents are tied, the disciplinary resources of the educators are non-existent and the community safe haven that can field the crisis is ranked low on the list of budgetary priorities of the Metro Council.

According to Juvenile Court Judge Sheila Calloway, “The City of Nashville is not only in dire need of community partnerships from local churches to find places for youth from 2pm to 8pm daily, but the area needs an assessment center too.”  She further stated, “There are enough churches in the area that can build a rotating schedule of activities on a weekly basis that can accommodate the youth in order to effectively get them off the streets and into a productive environment that is safe.”  There is a true disparity amongst the juveniles of color who represent the highest numbers of troubled youth in Davidson County that find themselves at times in trouble with nowhere to go. The Tribune reporting staff writer then asked about the budgetary priority for the request for an assessment center to which Judge Calloway indicated, “This is a budgetary item on the council agenda classified as a B priority that will be looked at perhaps during the September to October 2019 time period.”

The detention center in Nashville is a facility that provides separate services from a highly needed assessment center that would allow the juveniles to be properly assessed and adequately placed in a facility that can service their needs.  The existing system in the city simply does not allow enough time to be spent with the troubled youth before they are returned to their parents.  The police currently bring youth to detention who have run away from their parents, but state and federal law only allow a runaway to be in custody for 24 hours before the parents will be charged with negligence if they do not come and retrieve their children.  The only juveniles that can be placed into detention under the current system are those youth that are waiting for trials and those identified to be at risk of violent behavior. A 24-hour assessment center would give parents in crisis a much-needed break while services are arranged to help the entire family.  

The shift of leadership in Nashville that is being role-played live in the public with Dr. Shawn Joseph has the potential to negatively affect the youth in the Metro School System. After not having a role model to look up to, the youth have developed a connection with the presence of the leadership figure in Dr. Joseph only to be torn away by political mire. Not only has Dr. Joseph been torn down as an empire of one, but a collective group of connected youth have been torn down as well. 

A staunch advocate of the youth, Judge Calloway shared information about several non-profit organizations that support the educators and the students of Nashville such as the Pencil Closet that stocks school supplies for school teachers and the Homework Hotline Board.  This is a telephone tutoring line available Monday to Thursday that provides homework assistance to Davidson County students on various subjects from 4pm to 7pm daily.  Non-profit organizations, according to Judge Calloway, provide support to the total student body and also assist with food, clothing and social and emotional learning in the form of counseling. 

This article originally appeared in The Tennessee Tribune

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