Juvenile Justice Research

Goals

To provide an overview of juvenile justice statistics and national trends for 15-19-year-olds in the following markets: Nashville, TN, Pittsburgh, PA, Wichita, KS, Phoenix, AZ, Dallas, TX, and Miami, FL. Areas of focus should include reasons for entry into the juvenile justice system, post-release data, organizations in the space and their success rates, any available academic research supporting the theory of change, and the results of trauma-informed programs. This research will be used to evaluate investment opportunities in nonprofit organizations working in juvenile justice.


Early Findings

Juvenile Justice — Nashville, Tennessee

  • The Tennessee Department of Corrections (TDOC) compiles its juvenile statistics on a state wide basis. As at 9 November 2020, there were eight juvenile offenders under the jurisdiction of the TDOC. All were male, with five aged 17 and three aged 16. Seven of the juveniles were African American and one was white. Their sentences ranged from five to 19.5 years. Five of the juveniles had a primary offense of aggravated robbery, one aggravated assault, and one attempted homicide. Information was not available in respect of the other juvenile.
  • There have been multiple news reports over the last two years relating to the "broken" and outdated Tennessee juvenile justice system. "A series of homicides in the last three years has dramatically illustrated the serious juvenile crime issues facing the city of Nashville and surrounding areas." However, critics of the system say that violent offenders are repeatedly returned to the streets.
  • In the last two years, at least eight juveniles have been charged with murder in Nashville. Robbery charges are at a five-year high, and there has been a significant increase in the number of auto thefts by juveniles and the number of juveniles in possession of handguns. Auto theft is considered a gateway offense to violent crime.
  • Police and court officials report that it is repeat offenders leading the current crime wave. Of the 35 juveniles charged with homicide since 2016, two-thirds had confirmed juvenile records.
  • Judge Calloway is one of the principal juvenile court judges who is looking to "provide interventions that give kids a chance to become productive members of society and not inmates that taxpayers will have to pay to keep behind bars for the rest of their lives." There is a strong link between those locked up, failing to graduate, and ultimately ending up in the adult justice system. Judge Calloway argues, "What we have to do in order to protect the public is to put more services and resources into every child."
  • Services and resources are paramount, with the state unable to detain juveniles for non-violent crimes. The state relies on "less secure facilities operated by private companies to treat and rehabilitate some of the state's most troubled kids."
  • There are currently 185 people within the Tennessee Corrections system serving life sentences for crimes they committed as a juvenile. Tennessee´s sentencing laws for juveniles convicted of murder have the longest minimum sentence (51 years) in the US.

TN Voices

  • TN Voices began in 1986 as a "statewide coalition of individuals, agencies, and organizations working together as a Steering Council to promote children’s mental health services."
  • In 1993, the organization received funding to "pursue the development and implementation of a Statewide Family Support Network for families with children impacted by emotional and behavioral difficulties."
  • TN Voices was awarded the Claiming Children Award from the Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health in 2005.
  • The Justcare 180 program to divert juveniles from the court system that TN Voices implemented in Memphis has a 90% success rate in preventing further involvement in the juvenile court system.
  • TN Voices currently runs a range of different programs across the state to assist juveniles that are considered at risk.

Summary

  • In our initial hour of research, we have scoped the availability of information for each area identified in the goals. We have begun to compile data for Nashville, TN to provide an example of the range of information available.
  • One of the difficulties we foresee is the lack of comprehensive and current data for some states. Tennessee being a good example of this. Juvenile Justice Geography, Policy, Practice & Statistics provides a detailed overview of the juvenile justice system in each state, including offender rates, demographic data, responsible agencies, and pertinent policies in the state. It should be noted for some states; the juvenile offender records are dated. For example, Tennessee has data available for the years 1997 to 2015, with the quality varying depending on the source agency.
  • Given, the overarching goal of the research is to evaluate the need within the identified areas and the current organizations working in the space successfully to inform non-profit investment opportunities, we suggest a three-pronged research approach to overcome the deficiencies in available data that will result in cohesive resource that achieves this purpose.

Proposed next steps:

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