NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – On Tuesday, a bill focused on juvenile crime moved forward in the state despite pushback from lawmakers and advocates.

The bill, introduced by the Speaker of the House Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville), would take serious crimes committed by teens, and instead of going before a juvenile court judge, they would be looked at as an adult. Once in a criminal courtroom, the judge there would then decide whether or not to try the teen as an adult or send them back to juvenile court.

“Some crimes committed by juveniles are so heinous, that they should be treated as the same as adult crimes,” said Rep. Mary Littleton (R-Dickson) who said she was speaking on behalf of Sexton’s office.

Some lawmakers in Memphis agreed with the idea. Last summer, a group of teens was charged after Rev. Dr. Autura Eason Williams became a shooting victim of a carjacking, according to Memphis police. Detectives at the time told reporters, the teens led them on a police chase in Berclair.

“We have a serious juvenile crime problem, and this is a great step in the right direction, and this will save people’s lives,” said Rep. John Gillespie (R-Memphis) in response to the proposed bill.

However, the bill did not go unopposed. On Tuesday, Cyntoia Brown testified against its passage. Now a juvenile justice advocate, Brown spoke about her own experience after she was charged with murder and robbery as a 16-year-old in 2004. At the time, she told the court she was being sex trafficked. Brown was transferred to be tried as an adult.

On Tuesday, she spoke before the Criminal Justice Subcommittee, detailing how her own experience impacted her at the time.

“I was one of those kids. I was transferred to be tried as an adult. I was removed from the juvenile justice center and sent to an adult jail and I had to spend two years in solitary confinement because whenever a juvenile is sent to a facility they have to be kept away site and sound from all of the adults. The only option that the sheriffs really have is to place them in solitary confinement, so for 23 hours a day I was kept in a cell, and most days the only sunlight I saw was through a window in a wall and the only human interaction I had was from a guard who was bringing me my food tray” explained Brown.

Days before the bill went before the subcommittee for a vote, the ACLU of Tennessee also spoke out against its passage on social media, in a statement that read:

This week lawmakers will take up a bill that would transfer more kids to adult court. The impact of sending a young person to adult criminal court is irreversible – adult facilities are dangerous for youth due to risk of violence and make it harder for youth to get the mental health and rehabilitative resources they need. Youth sent to the adult system are almost 30% more likely to be rearrested than those prosecuted in juvenile court.

During Brown’s testimony, Rep. G.A. Hardaway (D-Memphis) applauded her for coming before lawmakers and sharing her insight. Before the vote, he said, “Just what a travesty it is to throw away, the potential that young folks like you hold.”

Brown also talked about the lack of education juveniles would receive behind bars, as she pointed back to time behind bars and how her lawyer would drop off education packets.

“One child who’s kept in the juvenile system can have opportunities to progress can have an opportunity to be transformed, and retrained and become a benefit to society, but a child who is placed in an adult system is pretty much just set on a downhill path,” explained Brown.

Littleton stressed her argument, as she spoke about juveniles in Shelby County who have repeated violent crimes. According to her, the juvenile system saw 2,507 teens — 520 of whom were charged with a second offense, and “all the way down to the 10th” offense. Littleton stated 123 teens were charged with the 10th offense.

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Rep. Bud Hulsey (R-Kingsport) also asked Brown her opinions about the bill, as he pointed to the pressing issue of teens who re-commit. He stated, “the problem there from what I understand and in other places in this state is that they’re starting the juvenile justice system, they get released and commit crime again.”

The bill passed the subcommittee but still has several steps ahead before it could appear on Gov. Bill Lee’s desk.