Shelby County juvenile court seeks more beds to keep youths out of detention

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MEMPHIS, Tennessee — Juvenile court officials in Shelby County are seeking funds for more beds in an effort to keep additional youths out of detention.

A nonprofit organization provides four beds to accommodate children who can't go home but shouldn't be detained, but The Commercial Appeal (http://bit.ly/1F37sPT) reports experts say that's not enough.

"It's an unfortunate, ugly truth that there is a lack of beds here, especially in a city this size, for children that shouldn't be in detention," said Dennis Fleming, social services vice president at Porter-Leath, the nonprofit that provides beds.

Larry Scroggs, court CAO and chief counsel, says juvenile court asked for an additional $140,000 for alternative beds to accommodate youth.

The request is part of a larger movement to reduce the number of children in detention. The county has already had a decline in the number of youth detained, from 3,949 in 2012 to 1,304 in 2014.

Officials want to lower the number even further, said Kimbrell Owens, site coordinator for the Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiatives.

"We're looking at things to help law enforcement because we don't want their only resource to be bringing children to Juvenile Court," Owens said. "We are in the business right now of creating those alternatives."

Scroggs said some communities offer safe houses where children can stay for a couple of hours or a couple of days.

"So many times what those kids need, they need some counseling, some type of structure and essentially they need a mentoring opportunity," Scroggs said. "Someone who can handle them, bring them down from a highly emotionally state. It's being done successfully in other communities."


Information from: The Commercial Appeal, http://www.commercialappeal.com

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