Memphis Seeks National Recognition for Cutting Teen Detention Numbers


Gone are the days in Memphis of tossing any unruly kid in jail until officials figured out what to do next, says the Memphis Commercial Appeal. So far this year, the average daily number of minors held in detention is 38, compared to 89 nine years ago, said Rick Powell, who oversees the detention center. That is a key reason Shelby County may earn a coveted designation of recognition from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which supports reform of juvenile justice systems across the nation.

If selected as a Casey Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative site, Memphis would become one of the largest urban juvenile courts in the country to win the designation and would become a model for other juvenile courts in Tennessee, said Linda O’Neal of the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth. Diminished self-worth, anger and depression are some of the effects of locking up teens who break curfew, skip school or commit a crime. Just one day in lockup can be detrimental to teens, says the Casey Foundation, and finding alternatives has become a growing national trend.

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