NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Teenagers accused of raping other children, car burglaries, child porn are just some of the horrific crimes Sumner County Assistant District Attorney General Jenni Smith and Davidson County Judge Sheila Calloway are seeing children commit.
In Sumner County, Smith wants to see Tennessee take a tougher stance on bullying.
“Honestly, for me, I would like to see a bullying statute and have it be a felony. I think it would help deter a lot of that online bullying that goes on. And you see it across the country, some of these kids get bullied to the point where they commit suicide,” said Smith.
Even though her hands are often tied with bullying, Smith has seen progress with mental health since her county started its own mental health court.
“It’s actually very touching when you willingly see a kid go into our mental health court program, and they’re so relieved to be finally getting treatment that they need, and that they’ve been crying out for, that they cry tears of happiness to finally be getting help,” said Smith.
In Davidson County, Judge Calloway says that most of the children in front of her score far too high on the adverse childhood experience test. She would like to see more mental health caretakers. But she also wants lawmakers to pass what’s known as blended sentencing. Instead of putting a child in juvenile court or an adult court, blended sentencing would allow the juvenile judge more discretion to track the child’s improvement into adulthood.
“We just have to make sure as we are passing laws that it’s not blanket statements that kids have to do this, if they do this. That it’s an opportunity for the judge to use the judge’s discretion to see what actually happened, what’s going on, and determine whether it’s a reason to have a stricter punishment,” said Calloway.
Smith wants more discretion too, so the violent teenage offenders don’t just cycle back out on to the streets.
“I would like more resources. If it’s a child that we can rehabilitate, I would like some rehabilitation. But if it’s a child that needs more of a punishment, I would like to have more tools to be able to do that,” said Smith.
News 2 looks at the community consequences of the growing number of kids committing crimes and new ideas about solutions with our special reports, Juvenile Crime.