NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Plans are underway to build a new 14-acre campus dedicated to keeping juveniles out of jail and on a path to success in Nashville.

According to the Davidson County Juvenile Court, there were about 1,300 juvenile delinquency arrests in 2021, which was a decrease from 2020 by 15% and a decrease from 2013 of almost 72%.

News 2 asked Juvenile Court Judge Sheila Calloway if lower arrests meant juvenile crime was actually down and she said it was because they’ve been using partnerships with entities like Metro schools to prevent criminal activity in the first place.

“It’s building their ability to be rehabilitated and restored within the school system without being suspended, without being expelled, and just being able to provide more for our students on that end of the spectrum as well,” Calloway said. “All of those things working together means that juvenile crime is definitely going down in Davidson County.”

Judge Calloway said their new campus will build on the restorative justice practices they’ve been using over the years. It’ll be called the “Nashville Youth Campus for Empowerment.” They’re putting it on a 14-acre property off Brick Church Pike on the former site of the Al Menah Shrine Temple.

Juvenile Court Clerk Lonnell Matthews, Jr. has been active in the project and said the new location is central enough for all Davidson County residents and they did not want to be downtown.

“That was really important for us not only to have new facilities that are large enough to accommodate our operation but also have the potential for growth and expansion as Nashville and the population continues to grow and expand here,” Matthews said. “And, if you’re in the heart of downtown, you have to pay for parking. And that’s one thing that is a deterrent or burden, an extra barrier for families and children that have to use our services.”

Judge Calloway said that as Nashville grew over the years, they did as well and they’ve run out of space at the current facility in East Nashville. It was opened in 1994 and she said there are also structural issues with things like piping and sewage hampering their efforts.

In addition to serving as the home of the Davidson County Juvenile Court and a pre-trial housing facility, the NYCE campus will house resources and agencies that can get services to families in need. She said the project was looking to cost about $130 million dollars, but they’re working with architects to eliminate some aspects and lower that amount.

“My hope is that the smallest part of the facility that we have would be the detention facility, that we’re not spending a whole lot of money on a detention side, because that’s not what we want to spend our money on,” said Calloway. “We want to spend our money on the prevention side, to make sure that we’re providing great services to have our service providers right there on the campus with us.”

The new campus will include a 24-hour assessment center that they hope will support youth in crisis, a safe exchange facility for custodial visitation, and meeting areas for community partners.

“This is a very manageable problem when you talk about crime. And the reason we can manage, the reason we are seeing that decline is that it is manageable,” Matthews said. “We do see on the news every day about crime and things going on in our community. But just to put it into perspective, you have 100,000 plus youth in this city and you have less than 0.5% that are making bad decisions. If we all come together with coordination and stay focused, we can really make their lives better. We can make Nashville, probably the safest place to live in this country.”

Matthews said they’re looking at about a three-and-a-half-year timeline before they complete building the new juvenile justice campus.