News

Comedy Show to Benefit Wilson County CASA

Proceeds from the Oct. 10 showing of “The Second City 55th Anniversary Tour” will benefit Wilson County CASA and its work on behalf of neglected and abused children. The show will take place at 7:30 p.m. at the Capitol Theater in Lebanon. Second City has given rise to such comedians as Jim and John Belushi, Bill Murray, Tina Fey, Steve Carell and Stephen Colbert. The anniversary tour brings its legendary comedy to cities across the country. General admission tickets are $50 each and are available online. VIP tickets provide access to the pre-show cocktail party and special seating.

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DCS Reviews Transportation Procedures After Escape

The Department of Children Services (DCS) is reviewing the transportation procedures of one of its largest private contractors after two teens escaped during transportation in two separate incidents on Sept. 2 and Sept. 10. Omni Visions, a Nashville-based private contractor for DCS, provides foster care placement, therapeutic services, treatment centers and other services for children in DCS custody. WKRN News 2 spoke to Omni Visions Director of Children Services Kathy Joyner who said they are also reviewing how the two teens escaped. 
“The safety of the kids we serve is paramount,” Joyner said. “Every time we have a child run we are worried.”

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DA: Deadly Force Against Juveniles Can Be Justified

In light of the recent attack at an East Memphis Kroger store, District Attorney General Amy Weirich spoke about deadly force against juveniles at a press conference Tuesday. Weirich said Tennessee law allows people to use deadly force to protect themselves or others if their lives are at risk but that issue is not cut and dry, as the country has seen in several highly publicized incidents. Saturday night, a large group of juveniles attacked three people and vandalized a fourth person’s car outside a Kroger store. WREG has more.

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Memphis Receives More than $1 Million in Grants to Combat Gangs, Domestic Violence

The city of Memphis has received two grants by the Department of Justice to combat gangs and domestic violence, U.S. Attorney Edward Stanton announced yesterday in a press release. Totaling $900,000, the “Grant to Encourage Arrest Policies and Enforcement of Protection Orders” will help enforce protection orders and protect victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. “Project Safe Neighborhoods Grant” is a $148,885 grant to reduce gang and gun violence locally. The Memphis Flyer has more.

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DCS Asks for Security Audits at Juvenile Facilities

A preliminary report sent to Gov. Bill Haslam by the Department of Children’s Services (DCS) calls for a security audit of the state’s youth development centers following two incidents last week at the Woodland Hills Youth Development Center in Nashville. The first incident, which occurred last Monday night, involved the escape of 32 teens, five of whom are still at large. Two days later, 24 detainees broke into the yard wielding sticks and spraying a fire extinguisher. The audit would examine security protocols at Woodland Hills as well as at Wilder Youth Development Center in Somerville and Mountain View Youth Development Center in Dandridge. WCYB News 5 has more.

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Memphis DA Investigating Parking Lot Attack

Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich says her juvenile prosecution team will take on responsibility for making sure justice is done for the victims of a mob attack Saturday night at a popular Memphis shopping center, WMC News 5 reports. Weirich says it is too early to say whether the attacks were racially motivated, but suggests there may be enhanced charges because the assaults happened in a mob setting. Police have downplayed the idea that the attack against an unsuspecting customer and two teenage employees was a hate crime or a gang-related incident. They already have arrested and charged 10 teenagers and one adult, but are asking for the public’s help in identifying additional suspects.

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Tennessee CASA Holds Annual Meeting

Tennessee CASA will hold its 2014 Annual Meeting Sept. 17 from 10 to 11:30 a.m. at the Nashville Public Library. The event will feature brunch, a keynote address from Davidson County Juvenile Court Judge Sheila Calloway and presentation of awards that honor those making an impact for Tennessee’s abused and neglected children. Michael Leach with the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services will receive the the Champion for Children Award, while Tawny Spinelli with the Tennessee Children’s Cabinet at the state Department of Health will receive the Light of Hope Award. The library is located at 615 Church St. in Nashville. Free parking is available for up to 90 minutes in the library garage. Register online by Sept. 10.

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Gov. Haslam Requests Report on DCS Center Violence

Gov. Bill Haslam has asked the top executive at the Department of Children's Services for a report on the violence at Woodland Hills Youth Development Center, the Tennessean reports. Officials handcuffed 24 teenagers early this morning after a riot broke out at Woodland Hills, the site of an escape that drew national headlines earlier this week. Six of those escapees remained at large as of last night. It is unclear when Commissioner Jim Henry will complete the report.

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Most Escaped Teens From DCS Center Back in Custody

Metro Police officers have recaptured most of the 32 teens who escaped from the Woodland Hills Youth Development Center on late Monday, the Tennessean reports. Metro Police is teaming with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to track down the six remaining escapees.

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Knox Juvenile Court Facility Revamp Completed

The ribbon formally was cut yesterday for the expanded Carey E. Garrett Juvenile Court Building in Knoxville, Knoxnews reports. The 8,926-square-foot project cost nearly $4 million — more than $600,000 over the original budgeted amount. It includes four new courtrooms, mediation rooms, holding cells, an enclosed sally port for law enforcement vehicles and expanded space for the clerk’s office. The building will now serve as the central location where all matters pertaining to juvenile justice and child support services in Knox County will be handled.

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Judge Philyaw Not Reappointing 2 Magistrates

Juvenile Court Judge Rob Philyaw said he is not reappointing two of six court magistrates, Chattanoogan.com reports. Leaving their posts will be Emma Andrews, who has been a magistrate for 16 years, and Elizabeth Gentzler, a magistrate for four years. Both handled child support and parentage cases at the Child Support Division. Philyaw described his actions saying, “The magistrates serve at the pleasure of the judge. Coming into a new term, it has been decided to not reappoint these two ...” Philyaw also said a replacement for Andrews has been chosen, but he is not yet ready to announce the name.

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Child Trafficking Forum Set for Memphis

A coalition of federal agencies will hold a forum on human trafficking Sept. 9 from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. The event will focus on combating child and youth exploitation with the goal of building greater awareness and better responses to the problem of child trafficking. Special training by the office of U.S. District Attorney Ed Stanton will be provided to law enforcement officers in attendance. Sponsors include the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Registration is free, but is required.

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Deputy DA Honored for Child Abuse Prevention Work

The J. Stephens Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse in Crossville recently honored Deputy District Attorney Gary McKenzie for his years of advocacy on behalf of Upper Cumberland children at risk of abuse and neglect. In presenting the award, the center noted that McKenzie has worked for more than a decade to seek justice for victims of abuse/neglect, has been part of several grass-roots efforts to improve the services available to victims and has worked to strengthen laws concerning abuse and neglect. McKenzie has worked in the district attorney’s office since graduating from law school in 2000. He was named deputy in 2007. Last week he won election as 13th Judicial District Criminal Court Judge, Part I. See a photo of the award presentation in the Crossville Chronicle.

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Michael, Kyle and Weirich Win in Memphis Races

Three races in Memphis caught the state’s attention in Thursday’s elections. Shelby County Juvenile Court Special Judge Dan Michael was elected to the court’s top job with 54 percent of the vote, besting challenger Tarik Sugarmon in the race to become Juvenile Court judge. Michael will replace outgoing Judge Curtis Person, who is retiring. Sugarmon currently serves as Memphis City Court administrative judge. Senate Democratic leader Jim Kyle claimed the open seat in Chancery Court Part II, besting three opponents to replace Chancellor Arnold B. Goldin, whose seat opened up when he was appointed to the Tennessee Court of Appeals. Kyle has said that he would resign from the legislature if he won. A special election will be held this year to fill Kyle’s seat for the remaining two years of his four-year term. The Commercial Appeal has these stories. In the race for district attorney general, incumbent Amy Weirich garnered 65 percent of the vote over Joe Brown to retain the job she has held since January 2011 when Gov. Bill Haslam appointed her as the county’s first female district attorney. Weirich credited widespread support from all parts of town and from both parties. 

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DCS Reports 2 Apparent Suicides at Detention Facility

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is reviewing the deaths of two teens in separate apparent suicides within a three-week span at a Department of Children's Services facility that houses delinquent youth. Last week, staff at Mountain View Youth Development Center in East Tennessee discovered an unconscious 18-year-old who is believed to have hanged himself. He died the next day at a local hospital. On July 13, a 16-year-old boy fatally hanged himself in his room as other teens left to shower, according to DCS officials. The deaths come a year after the department underwent a reorganization and change in leadership after multiple problems emerged, including a failure to keep track of deaths of children on its watch and a spike in violence at its youth detention facilities. The Tennessean has the story.

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DOJ Suggests Increasing Juvenile Age Limit

The Department of Justice is recommending raising the minimum age for those who can be tried as adults as a controversial solution to reducing violence in Memphis, WREG reports. The agency is recommending juvenile courts raise the age of teens they serve from 18 years old to somewhere between 21 and 24 years old. Shelby County Juvenile Court chief administrator Larry Scroggs said 21 would be a good compromise since cutting services off at 18 is too early.

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Immigration Courts Work to Speed up Children’s Cases

Immigration courts are speeding up hearings for the tens of thousands of Central American children caught on the U.S. border after criticism that the backlogged system is letting immigrants stay in the country for years while waiting for their cases to be heard. There are 375,000 cases before the immigration courts, and many immigrants wait months or years for a hearing. Instead of bumping children to the back of that long line, the courts are now giving each child an initial court hearing within three weeks, according to the Justice Department's Executive Office for Immigration Review. A spokeswoman for the courts didn't answer questions about how many children's hearings had been set under the new plan or which courts had scheduled additional hearings. The Daily Times has more.

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Domestic Abusers Asked to ‘Check-in’

Davidson County court officers appear to be misapplying a new state law that was intended to cut down on frivolous arrest warrants by issuing summonses instead of warrants for domestic abuse suspects, a Tennessean editorial suggests. Domestic abusers are among criminals most likely to reoffend in a short amount of time, because of the level of anger involved, and the episodes only grow more violent and more deadly. Switching to summonses, for which there are no consequences if you choose to ignore them, may be the worst turn of events yet, the publication says.

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Tennessee to be Pilot Site for Juvenile Tracking Plans

The Tennessee’s Department of Children’s Services (DCS) is partnering with two national groups to improve the collection and analysis of recidivism data.The Council for State Governments Justice Center and the National Reentry Resource Center will join the DCS Juvenile Justice Division on the project, with the goal of improving outcomes for youth who come into contact with the juvenile justice system. State Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris on Monday applauded the move, saying the “project is a significant opportunity … to improve the way we are tracking these youth.” Chattanoogan.com has more on the story.

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Hamilton Juvenile Court Launches Video Hearings

The Hamilton County Juvenile Court initiated its first video hearing this week, Chattanoogan.com reports. Officials said the new technology will save the sheriff’s office and juvenile corrections staff both time and fuel costs and will increase security of the court by not moving prisoners through public areas. Juvenile Court Clerk Gary Behler proposed the idea and Judge Rob Philyaw signed off on it.

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Access and Visitation Grants Available

The Administrative Office of the Courts has approximately $200,000 in grant funding available for the development or continuation of initiatives that will aid self-represented litigants in accessing the Tennessee court system regarding child support issues. To receive funding, the initiatives must address the needs of divorced or never married parents, and focus on services to help them resolve any or all issues concerning parenting and visitation in child support cases or cases involving child support issues. Proposals must be received by Aug. 8.

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Judges Call to Double Number of Foster Families

Montgomery County Judge Ken Goble and Juvenile Magistrate Tim Barnes are asking citizens to look at their circumstances and see if they have the ability to become a foster parent, the Leaf Chronicle reports. There are currently 50 foster families, but the judges say the county needs to double that number to adequately serve all of the 279 children in the system.

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Juvenile Court Reform Moves to Child Welfare Cases

Memphis-Shelby County Juvenile Court has been selected as one of eight courts in the nation in which the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges will establish a new child welfare program. Juvenile Court reform has often focused on delinquent children who come into court for their actions — the nonprofit council now plans to examine the reason why children come to the court in the first place. The Memphis Daily News has the story.

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First Mom Charged Under Prenatal Drug Law

A 26-year-old Tennessee woman has become the first mother to be charged under a state law that criminalizes drug use by pregnant women, MSNBC reports. Mallory Loyola was arrested and charged Tuesday with simple assault after she and the baby girl she gave birth to on July 6 both tested positive for methamphetamine, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office said. Loyola told police she smoked the drug a few days before she gave birth. The misdemeanor charge carries a maximum sentence of one year. Tennessee is the first state in the nation to allow such charges.

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Sevier CASA Holds Youth Rodeo Fundraiser

CASA of Sevier County will host a youth rodeo to raise money for its work. Cowboys for CASA will take place Aug. 22 at 7 p.m. at Tri C Farms in Seymour. Tickets are $20 and corporate sponsorships are available for $300. For more information, contact director Jim King, (865) 654-7097.

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