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President Trump loses another round in court on immigrant “dreamers.” Also on today’s rundown: Environmentalists tell New York Gov. Cuomo to match words with action; California lawmakers wear jeans, taking a stand against sexual violence; and Airbnb is called out for “secret tax deals.”

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Children Behind Bars: Report Recommends Alternatives

Earlier this year leaders from advocacy and business groups in the state launched the Tennessee Coalition for Sensible Justice. (Larry Farr/morguefile.com)
Earlier this year leaders from advocacy and business groups in the state launched the Tennessee Coalition for Sensible Justice. (Larry Farr/morguefile.com)
October 25, 2016

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Kids should not be kept behind bars, that's the message of a new report examining the ineffectiveness of youth detention facilities in Tennessee and other states. The research from the Annie E. Casey Foundation pulls together evidence of the failings of youth correctional facilities and recommends they all be closed.

Casey Foundation President and CEO Patrick McCarthy said states like Tennessee should be sure to look at the proven alternatives to return youth to society when possible.

"Because we have the alternatives, because we have the evidence, we are finally at a place where we can start thinking more strategically about what we ought to do with the few young people who do commit serious juvenile crime, rather than locking up young people wholesale," he said.

Earlier this year leaders from advocacy and business groups in the state launched the Tennessee Coalition for Sensible Justice. The coalition will initially pursue legislative initiatives focused on juvenile justice, sentencing reform and recidivism reduction. There are just over 1,200 youth currently overseen by the Department of Children's Services.

According to the report, systemic maltreatment has been documented in youth prison facilities in nearly half the states since 2000, including Tennessee. There have been reports of sexual abuse, suicide and other serious incidences at youth detention facilities in the Volunteer State in recent years. McCarthy said it's the result of a model focused on security and control.

"They are staffed by corrections officers and in some facilities, things like mace have been used, long, extended isolation, shackles, handcuffs, very brutal methods of controlling a young population," he explained.

And instead of the outmoded assumption that locking kids up improves safety, McCarthy said the corrections culture should focus on rehabilitating them.

"We've got to build a juvenile justice system that's based on the very simple principle of developing young people's capacity, giving them opportunity," added McCarthy. "Holding them accountable, of course, is also very important, but doing it in a way that provides them a path to get back on track."

The most serious juvenile offenders in Tennessee typically go to one of the state's three youth development centers in Dandridge, Nashville and Somersville. Services include mental health treatment, family therapy, individual therapy, education, alcohol and drug treatment, among others.

Stephanie Carson/Shaine Smith, Public News Service - TN