County Commission throws support behind privately-funded juvenile offender facility

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Shelby County Commission is throwing its support behind an effort for a privately-funded juvenile offender facility, but the group’s endorsement didn’t come without concerns.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do. Great encouragement from the Shelby County Commission and we’re grateful for that,” said former Mayor Willie Herenton.

Herenton’s plan for a juvenile offender facility in Shelby County has the backing of the Shelby County Commission.

“This is the step up I’ve been looking for,” said Commissioner Reginald Milton.

This week, County Commissioners voted on endorsing the Newpath Restorative Campus, slated to provide services like education, mentoring, and mental health treatment to about 250 juvenile offenders at facilities in Millington and Frayser.

Currently, juvenile offenders are sent outside the county, which costs millions.

Herenton has not yet revealed his funders for the plan, but isn’t asking for any money from the county.

Even so, talks led to some fireworks.

“You have the audacity just to pontificate for whatever your reason,” Herenton told Commissioner Walter Bailey.

Bailey cited concerns regarding a lack of information and the privatization of penal facilities.

He and Commissioner Mark Billingsley abstained from voting, while Commissioners David Reaves and George Chism voted no.

Herenton fired back at Bailey’s comments.

“We have 85 percent of the juvenile offenders that are incarcerated in intolerable facilities look like you and me,” he said.

“Commissioner Bailey, in my judgment, just clearly lacked understanding of the concept, and, quite frankly, I was appalled that he didn’t even demonstrate any compassion for these young people that are incarcerated,” he told WREG.

Chariman Terry Roland and Commissioner Reaves confirmed to WREG that this topic sparked another minor disagreement between the two of them.

Reaves told WREG he conveyed his concerns that Roland was the only Republican sponsor on the item, along with multiple Democrats. He reportedly told Roland he was selling out his district.

Roland claimed that Reaves stuck his finger in his face, and Roland pushed past him to get back to the Commission.

Reaves said he did not stick his finger in Roland’s face. He said Roland got angry and shoved him several feet.

Roland said his vote has nothing to do with his party, but everything to do with the creation of 300 jobs at each facility.

WREG reached out to Commissioner Bailey for comment but has not heard back just yet.

Herenton said the Department of Children’s Services needs to approve the facility as a provider of services.

He said he is working with the DCS on that process.

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