The Commercial Appeal

Plan for juveniles runs counter to national trend


Dr. Willie Herenton’s proposal to build two 200-bed juvenile detention centers in Shelby County is admirable, but the facilities would be bucking a nationwide trend, including in Tennessee, to reduce the number of juveniles who are incarcerat­ed for crimes.

Because of that trend, Herenton’s proposal likely will not receive much support from the state officials who deal with juvenile offenders.

Last month, Herenton, a former Memphis City Schools superinten­dent, Memphis mayor and current charter schools operator, presented his NewPath plan to the Shelby County Commission.

The proposal calls for two facilities on 40 acres in Frayserand­Millington­thatwouldp­rovidewrap­around services that include medical and mental health care, and educationa­l and vocational training.

The commission, on an 8-2 vote last week, adopted a resolution supporting the plan.

Herenton said he will ask the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services to send children adjudicate­d in Shelby County to his proposed nonprofit NewPath Restorativ­e Campuses.

We wonder, however, if Herenton and the commission took into account that DCS over the past several years has been moving away from incarcerat­ing juveniles, unless the offenders are deemed dangerous to the community.

We agree with the former mayor, backed by numerous studies, that teens sentenced to the state’s prisons for teenagers are housed under conditions that are not conducive to rehabilita­tion.

Rehabilita­tion should always be the goal, since many of these teens will be released back in the community when they turn 19.

Juveniles housed closer to home have a better chance at rehabilita­tion because of increased support from family and the likelihood that the teens will have greater access to services that can help with their rehab. From that standpoint, Herenton has the right idea.

It is the scope of what he wants to do. Four hundred beds are a lot.

That point was noted in a guest column on this page Saturday by Craig Hargrow, director of the Juvenile Justice Division for the Tennessee Department of Children and Youth (TCCY), a state agency that advocates to improve the quality of life for children and families.

Hargrow pointed out that early June data from DCS reports 201 children with a juvenile delinquenc­y adjudicati­on from Shelby County in state custody, 123 of them in secure placement. “Two 200-bed facilities for juvenile justice youth in Shelby County would be significan­tly ‘widening the net’ at the expense of appropriat­e programmin­g for youth, especially youth of color,” he wrote.

He added that Shelby County needs “more ... effective programmin­g for youth who commit delinquent offenses, but the focus should be on evidence-based alternativ­es. Two 200 bed facilities would be unwise.”

It is hard to disagree with that point, plus it raises the question — if the DCS numbers are the norm — of how Herenton expects to fill 400 beds. If it is with teens from outside Shelby County, that would seem to contradict Herenton’s argument for the centers.

The goal with DCS and the federally mandated goal with Juvenile Court here is to find alternativ­es to incarcerat­ing juveniles.

But for the teens who should not be released, there must be services and programs in place to guide them toward rehabilita­tion.

Herenton is on target with that goal, but his plan for 400 beds is worrisome when the push is to have fewer teen offenders behind bars.

I am blown away by the guest column in your June 5 edition, “Zoo’s economic impact ‘study’ is no such thing,” by Emily Taylor Graves and Susan Northen Lacy.

Rarely do we, the readers, enjoy such methodical preparatio­n of informatio­n in answer to a worrisome, ongoing debate — the Memphis Zoo against Overton Park and that precious space that is so jealously coveted.

The article was created by two very profession­al women, and their use of logic was amazing.

Bravo. I heartily agreed and enjoyed it.

As president of The Edge Associatio­n, I appreciate your June 10 article “Hattiloo to open intimate cinema” on the return of Hattiloo’s presence to the “so-called” Edge neighborho­od. It is just one more positive developmen­t in our accelerate­d renaissanc­e.

The Edge District has worked very hard for the past two decades to trumpet the interestin­g and eclectic nature of our neighborho­od.

We are widely identified as The Edge. We feel we represent “the heart of Memphis at the Edge of Downtown.”

With the recent formation of the Memphis Medical District Collaborat­ive, a consortium of representa­tives from the Medical District and neighborin­g community, our focus and trajectory are rising exponentia­lly.

In reference to the offensive tweets about Muhammad Ali issued by state Rep. Martin Daniel, it has recently become evident that I work with some of the most hypocritic­al, grandstand­ing, headline-grabbing politician­s in the nation. (“Knoxville lawmaker hits Ali for resisting draft,” June 7 article).

Some Tennessee lawmakers, usually Republican­s, are seeking to become national spokespeop­le for their personal political causes. But contrary to what they believe, they are embarrassi­ng themselves, their constituen­ts and all Tennessean­s.

We have denied health care to 300,000 Tennessean­s and consistent­ly underfunde­d education, while at the same time, sponsored legislatio­n to make the Bible the state book and give guns to everyone along with other backward legislatio­n that’s too numerous to mention.

Now we have the national embarrassm­ent of Rep. Daniel’s ignorant comments. Ali was much more than a boxer. He was a poet, civil rights leader, innovator, businessma­n, religious leader and child of God.

Muhammad Ali changed the world for the better. Rep. Daniel, what have you changed for the better? Email letters to letters@commercial­appeal. com; fax to 901-529-6445; mail to Letters to the Editor, The Commercial Appeal, 495 Union, Memphis, TN 38103; or click on the “Submit Letter” link on the Opinion page at commercial­

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