Kids, crime are focus of Tennessee juvenile justice task force

Mark Norris and Beth Harwell (Photo: WKRN)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Kids involved in crime are getting attention that goes right to the top of the Tennessee state government.

It comes in the form of what is called a “blue ribbon task force” on the state’s juvenile justice system.

The group will be made up not only lawmakers, but prosecutors, child advocates and law enforcement officers who deal with juveniles.

“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,” said Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell, who co-chairs the task force along with Senate Republican Majority Leader Mark Norris.

Mark Norris and Beth Harwell (Photo: WKRN)

While no one is saying the system needs to be revamped and replaced, it does need “tweaking” as another top lawmaker said who is not part of the task force.

There are many questions raised by anyone who has come into contact with 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,” added the Speaker.

Researchers from the Pew Charitable Trust will be sharing their latest data that has been used as a basis for legislation in several other states.

One of them told the taskforce Wednesday that locking up juvenile offenders doesn’t work well in some the other states it surveyed.

Community supervision works better and saves money said the Pew researchers.

“We want to focus our energies early in the process on the data and research,” said co-chair Sen. Norris.

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

Click here to see the task force’s presentation.

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