SCSO wants to expand programs to help young offenders stay out of jail

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Shelby County Sheriff's Office is working on a way to stop young criminals from ending up back in the system.

There are programs in place to help some of these young people but now they're wanting to expand them.

It's difficult for any community to see a trend of young people ending up behind bars.

We can't show his face, but Sebastian is one of them.

"I just turned 16 when I got locked up," he said. "I'm 18 now. I was a kid, I was ignorant. I didn't see any alternative to the lifestyle I was living."

Shelby County Sheriff Bill Oldham said men and women locked up for the first time between 16 and 24 years old are the ones who are most likely to become repeat offenders.

"At about 25 to 35, it slows down," said Sheriff Oldham. "Then, because of their age and maturity, it usually ceases."

Over the weekend, five men all under the age of 20 were arrested for beating up a man who didn't buy them cigarettes.

And four different men under the age of 23 were arrested for being part of a shooting Downtown.

This is why Sheriff Oldham is working on a new program to keep first time inmates under the age 25 away from the general population in the jail.

Not only will they house them in a different area, but they'll also try to set them up with counseling and learning opportunities to keep them from coming back.

"The only way they can become a better person is to effect that internal change in their minds and their hearts," Sheriff Oldham said.

He says it'll take extra funding and staffing, but could make a huge difference in Shelby County.

"It would be a great idea," said Memphis resident Dorothy Stribling.

But she does want the youth to be held accountable.

"They should do the time. If they're able to do the crime, they should do the time."

We don't have any timeline yet on when this program could start.

Authorities said it's also important for the community to be involved in church and after-school programs to keep students from ending up behind bars.