Home News Center Shelby County, Tennessee Moves to Keep Youth Out of Adult Prisons

Shelby County, Tennessee Moves to Keep Youth Out of Adult Prisons

May 31, 2018
Alyson Clements

As many of you are aware, a 16-year-old girl, Jane Doe, was held in solitary confinement in Tennessee adult prisons without ever being convicted of a crime. Using the state's 19th century "safekeeping" law which is designed to ensure prisoner safety, the local sheriff successfully petitioned a court to transfer Jane to a women's prison 200 miles form her home. Instead of keeping Jane safe, this increased her risk of abuse, violence, and suicide. 

In an effort to find a safe placement for Jane, NJJN supported our Tennessee member, Just City, by developing media strategies to raise public awareness, directly appealed to local decision makers, organized state and national support, and coordinated a letter writing campaign to help Jane feel less alone.

With help from dozens of partners, including  ACLU of TN, Black Lives Matter, Campaign for Youth Justice, Free Hearts, Mid-South Peace Organizing, Healthy and Free TN, and Project MI, advocates pushed for a Shelby County resolution stating youth should not be detained in adult facilities and pushed the Tennessee Legislature to unanimously amend the state's safekeeping law to prohibit the transfer of children to adult prisons. To learn more about the effort check out this timeline.

Are you a NJJN member in need of technical assistance? Contact Alyson Clements.

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