Along with the sadness felt by the public, there’s frustration with how the criminal justice system handles juvenile crime. There’s also a difference of opinion within the system itself.
In all five minors, ages 12 to 16 were arrested for the murder of 24-year-old Kyle Yorlets. According to officers, police were familiar with these teens. They had arrested them before.
“It sounds like there are some failures on the other end of the criminal justice system,” says James Smallwood, president of Nashville’s Fraternal Order of Police.
It’s his belief, children who commit these violent crimes are getting a slap on the wrist, and it’s common to see them arrested and released.
“We’ve got to figure out why the other side of the justice system isn’t doing its job, making sure they’re not getting back out there and doing it again,” Smallwood says.
From 2017 to 2018 robberies and burglaries committed by kids are down. But gun possession, vehicle theft and homicides are up.
“We have to come up with a better response,” says Metro Juvenile Court Judge, Sheila Calloway. “It can’t be, they keep coming into the system, over and over again, so let’s keep locking them up. That is what is destroying our youth.”
Judge Calloway is a strong supporter of teaching accountability and consequences, but says troubled youth need more support from those around them.
“It doesn’t necessarily need to come from the court system, it really has to come from the community,” Calloway says. “Our community has to step up, our faith-based organizations, our nonprofits, community centers.”