West Tennessee leaders express need for new juvenile detention facility - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported by Justin Hanson

West Tennessee leaders express need for new juvenile detention facility

TIPTON COUNTY, TN (WMC-TV) - Some rural west Tennessee officials are concerned about having a place to detain teens who commit violent crimes.  Sometimes, there isn't enough room to house them at Shelby County's juvenile detention facility.  So, where do they go?

As the number of teens committing serious crimes goes up, Shelby County's juvenile detention facility fills up.

"The average stay is about 10 to 12 days. Some of the kids that come in have serious charges," Deputy Administrator Gary Cummings said.

But the problem is the facility also detains lawbreaking teens from outside Shelby County, and many times, the 135 cells inside just isn't enough.

"While we try to be as accommodating as possible, we have needs we have to meet in Shelby County," Cummings said.

In the last four years alone, over 900 teens from rural west Tennessee counties have been detained at Juvenile Court in downtown Memphis.  And this doesn't come free - rural counties pay $150 a day for room and board.

Tipton County Sheriff Pancho Chumley sees the need for a new juvenile detention facility shared by several rural West Tennessee counties.

"Instead of slapping them on the back of the hand and saying go home, you have a place to put them, lock them down, let them know that what they did was wrong, not acceptable, but wrong," Chumley said.

Chumley added lawbreaking teens are likely to continue that trend as adults unless there's space to put them.

"Whether they're 15 or 22, when they're not carried somewhere to lock them down, to let them think about it before they go to court, then it feeds a monster," he said.

A monster Chumley says will continue to grow unless leaders find a solution to this need for space.


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