Former Memphis mayor proposes juvenile detention fix

Former Memphis mayor proposes juvenile detention fix
City's old inspection station at Washington Avenue and High Street. (Source: WMC Action News 5)
City's old inspection station at Washington Avenue and High Street. (Source: WMC Action News 5)

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - A familiar face sat down at the table during Tuesday's Memphis City Council committee meetings.

Former Mayor Willie Herenton spoke about juvenile justice, laying out a plan to make sure inequalities in the juvenile justice system are addressed.

Shelby County Juvenile Court has been in the headlines lately. In June, Shelby County asked the Department of Justice to end its oversight of Juvenile Court.

DOJ started monitoring the court in 2012 following studies that showed racial inequalities in how cases were being handled.

Herenton said he has a solution to the problem.

"We've got to educate, we've got to rehabilitate, and the reason I'm here today is I see politicians giving rhetoric but there's no plan of action," Herenton said.

Herenton proposed what he's calling his New Path Initiative. It's a plan to purchase the city's old inspection station at Washington Avenue and High Street and turn it into a detention campus to house juvenile offenders, while also providing them with health and education services.

Mayor Jim Strickland's office confirmed it has been in talks with Herenton about the idea. However, the administration called the talks very preliminary.

Herenton is also advocating for the council to keep juvenile offenders from being sent to other counties or states. He said he'll be asking for $2.5 million from the city--which will match the $2.5 million New Path is planning to spend--to help build pre-K centers in low-income communities in Memphis.

Critics point out that Herenton's plan to fix education in Memphis was to create charter schools. Many of Herenton's charter schools are now struggling to meet academic standards.

Herenton said charter schools have nothing to do with juvenile detention and juvenile detention has nothing to do with charter schools.

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