$1.3M approved for Juvenile Justice and Education Center

$1.3M approved for Juvenile Justice and Education Center

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Shelby County Commissioners gave initial approval for 1.3 million dollars in architecture and engineering work for Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris' newly proposed juvenile justice facility.

The total price tag for the new center is expected to be 25 million dollars.

Harris and commissioners indicated this new plan will not fall by the wayside.

“If I look in enough drawers around the county building or city hall, I can find a lot of plans that are collecting dust,” said Harris.

However, Harris said this one will not.

The new Juvenile Justice and Education Center would be built next to the existing facility on Adams. It will include recreation and classroom space with places for rehabilitative services.

“Given where the county commission is right now where juvenile justice is a top priority, I believe they’re going to bring that commitment to the table and we’re going to be able to get this done,” said Harris.

Commissioners will have to vote in a full meeting Monday to authorize the design work.

Commission Chairman Van Turners thinks the new center would be a great investment.

“Seeing that we are strong fiscally, I think we can spare the monies to invest in something like this. It’s important,” said Turner.

Currently, the county has 93 youth in juvenile detention and 23 juveniles being charged as adults are being held at jail east.

It is not clear if juveniles charged as adults would be housed at the new center.

Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich released a statement in response.

Commissioners also discussed implementing their own oversight of juvenile court, since the Department of Justice terminated its agreement in October.

“We need to make sure that we put in solid actions that can’t be removed when we’re gone and make certain that we never have to revisit these mistakes again,” said Commissioner Reginald Milton.

Statistics cited in the meeting show more youth in Shelby County are transferred to adult court than in Nashville and Davidson County.

Commissioners vowed to learn more about how juveniles are charged here.

“I do think that number is high and I want to see how we can address that number but also keeping in mind we want to ensure the safety of this community,” said Turner.

One proposal being put forth by the Harris administration is shifting the selection of defense attorneys from a staff member working in juvenile court, to the role of a staffer in the mayor’s office.

That would require county commission approval. Harris said he may bring it forth in a few weeks.

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