The Bridge Public Investment Plan (2017)
Kathryn Sinback, Juvenile Court
The Davidson County Juvenile Court currently receives approximately 3,300 children in the Juvenile Detention Center annually who are not legally eligible to be detained in a secure detention facility because they were arrested for status offenses such as runaway, curfew violations, and unruly offenses, or for low-level delinquent offenses. Because we do not currently have an alternative method to process children who were lawfully arrested but not detainable, these children typically end up staying in the secure Intake area of the Juvenile Detention facility for up to 24 hours. During this 24 hour period, the only service provided to the child in most instances is locating their parent or guardian and contacting the Department of Children’s Services if the parent or guardian is unwilling or unable to pick the child up from detention. Many of these children have experienced significant trauma and Adverse Childhood Experiences, and are in need of immediate assessment, care, and intervention. Research shows that detaining children unnecessarily in a secure detention facility can increase the risk of future delinquency and recidivism . See “The Dangers of Detention: The Impact of Incarcerating Youth in Detention and other Secure Facilities,” Justice Policy Institute Report (2006), attached.
Second, there is a need for short-term respite housing for juveniles who are in crisis or transition, such as juveniles who are returning home from runaway status, awaiting long-term residential placement, or in need of a break from their home environment while appropriate services are procured for the family. Currently, the only option for children who cannot immediately return to their home is placing them in the Department of Children’s Services custody or securing a short term placement at the Oasis Center. In most cases, the Oasis Center does not have beds available for the children identified by Juvenile Court as needing short-term respite housing.
Third, there is currently no temporary housing available that is dedicated to meeting the unique needs of homeless young people ages 18-24 in Nashville. [This portion of The Bridge proposal will be contingent on recommendations of working group on youth homelessness.]
Finally, there is a need to expand and relocate the Metro Student Attendance Center (MSAC) in order to effectively address truancy and school-related issues. Juvenile Court has recently begun providing greatly enhanced truancy prevention services at MSAC, including a dedicated education magistrate who holds daily court hearings for children who are arrested for Loitering During School Hours, in order to address the child’s truancy issues on the same day that they are arrested. Due to the increased truancy prevention services and court proceedings at MSAC ,we have outgrown the building where these services are currently being provided. We are presently required to limit the size of dockets in our MSAC courtroom to 20 people due to fire code and safety requirements, when larger dockets would be more efficient. Parking and transportation are also inadequate at the current location, as it is not located near a bus stop and many of the families who need the services of MSAC do not have access to an automobile.
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