Shelby County Commission calls town hall to address hot button issues

Leaders talk hot button issues at town hall

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Shelby County Commission Chairman Van Turner called a town hall meeting Saturday at New Growth in Christ Church to discuss several issues like juvenile justice reform and school improvements.

The topic at the top of the agenda was to explain why the Commission is upset with the Department of Justice’s decision to end its oversight of Shelby County’s Youth Detention Center.

The agreement entered into in 2012 to address major problems.

"We much would have preferred the Department of Justice stick around for perhaps another year or two, that way the improvements that would have been made we can watch to make sure that they stay," said Turner.

Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris gave harsh criticism of the current youth detention center.

He said despite some improvements, youth offenders are not getting the proper rehabilitation.

"They are not getting what is legally, minimally required because our facilities for youth are inadequate. I've been to several prisons, and the facility we have for youth is far inferior to every prison I have ever been to," said Harris.

Turner said he wants to make sure they are rehabilitated, educated and come out the juvenile justice system better than when they went in.

A member of the audience demanded answers to why some Shelby County Schools are not getting necessary upgrades.

White Station High School released students early Wednesday and Thursday and was closed all day Friday because the heating system didn’t work.

Turner said overall, he believes Shelby County Schools are in good shape.

"We're talking about the largest district in the state. So on scale, on balance, I think they've done well. Even with Kirby and with White Station, and some of the other issues, these are anomalies and that's a good thing," said Turner.

Mayor Harris said the county could soon announce plans to invest $150-200 million in construction projects at schools all over the county.

"So we don't have these kinds of problems going forward," said Turner.

Police Director Rallings also told the town hall that violent crime is down more than 5 percent this year.

He said he believes the effort to hire more officers by the city is working, but they are still struggling with rising property crime.

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