‘Past time’ in dealing with juvenile justice, says Tennessee lawmaker

William Lamberth (Photo: WKRN)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – It’s becoming clearer with each meeting of a special legislative task force that state lawmakers are “past time” in dealing with juvenile justice system.

Those words came from one of those task force members Wednesday as the group met for a second time in a scheduled six-hour hearing.

“It is past time that we invest our resources in these children and in these families,” said Rep. William Lamberth, who was a prosecutor in Sumner County before being a lawmaker appointed to the task force.

His words came just hours after a teenager was murdered in a public housing shootout near downtown Nashville late Tuesday.

(Photo: WKRN)

Lamberth has been outspoken that more resources are needed, especially in rural areas for trouble kids.

“(They) are in homes that are falling apart, whose parents may be in prison or involved in criminal activity,” said Lamberth, who referenced “justice by geography,” where what happens to you depends on where you live.

“There are lots of resources in some counties and very few resources to none in other counties,” added the lawmaker.

With the help of researchers from the Pew Charitable Trust, the second session dove into data about the current state of Tennessee’s juvenile justice system, but there are already trends which led to creation of the task force.

“We do have a problem with juveniles. Its escalating. The type of crime is more violent,” Speaker Beth Harwell told News 2. “We have to address that, but we want to do right by these children–trying to turn them around rather than locking them up and throwing away the key.”

The next task force meeting is scheduled for September when the task force members say a serious policy discussion will occur about what works and what doesn’t in the juvenile justice system.

After the monthly meetings are finished this fall, the goal of the task force is to present legislation next session that will make changes to the juvenile justice system.