Tennessee Leads Nation In Keeping Juveniles Out Of Jail

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(Memphis) Tennessee leads the nation when it comes to juvenile justice reform.

Kids Count says between 1997 and 2010 the number of kids in jail dropped by 66%.

The group says programs statewide and in Shelby County, aimed at reducing the juvenile inmate population, are working.

The Kid Counts Report specifically cited Memphis City Schools SchoolHouse Adjustment Enterprise or S.H.A.P.E. as a factor in the decline.

The program handles behavior and discipline problems within the schools rather than referring youth to juvenile court.

The news is not all good, though, for the state.

The number of African-American kids in the juvenile court system is still disproportionately high.

Last year the Justice Department said African-American kids in Shelby County were twice as likely to be detained, sent to DCS or transferred to adult court.

Those at juvenile court say they are working to change that.

"We’ve had two major sessions of training with the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. One is how to reduce disproportionate minority contact and the other is cultural competency. How to reduce bias in a system," said Larry Scroggs, Chief Administrative Officer For The Memphis and Shelby County Juvenile Court.

Last year, the Juvenile Court was designated as a site for the Annie E. Casey Foundation's Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative to address minority overrepresentation and look for ways to keep kids out of lockup.