SCSO receives praise for ‘major reforms’ at Juvenile Justice Center

Published: Jul. 12, 2019 at 5:09 AM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - After years of problems, the Shelby County Juvenile Justice Center is receiving praise by a national organization for reducing the use of solitary confinement.

A newly released report calls their work impressive for limiting the use of solitary confinement and putting them in a strong position to continue reforms at the embattled detention facility.

“It is so impactful. It's amazing to know that what was talked about some years back, in 2015, we're actually implementing,” said Assistant Chief Deidra Bridgeforth, Shelby County Sheriff’s Office.

Over a three-month span in 2015, the facility averaged over 21 hours of solitary confinement per month.

Over a three-month span in 2018, the Sheriff's office had lowered that number to an average of five hours per month.

Assistant Chief Deidra Bridgeforth says the change came about with enhanced training, new procedures and a focus on listening to the youth.

“It's not us against them. We are adults, these are children. We're here to be mentors, we're here to be coaches and we're here to share whatever knowledge we have with the youth that will make them or help them develop into productive citizens,” said Bridgeforth.

“I definitely think it's taking us in the right direction,” said Timothy Green Jr., Dividend Youth Program executive director.

Timothy Green Jr is the executive director of the Dividend Youth Program and co-founder of Memphis Restorative Justice Coalition.

Green says after the Department of Justice found that Shelby County Juvenile Justice was violating the civil rights of youth in 2012, this shows a marked improvement at the facility.

“I appreciate them taking this approach to kind of help them end that environment rather than just staying and seeing what we've seen done for juveniles for many years,” said Green.

“This type of recognition I'm thankful for because we've worked hard, my staff has worked hard to bring this facility to where it is,” said Bridgeforth.

Assistant Chief Bridgeforth says everything the juvenile justice center does now focuses on compassion and much of it was lessons they learned over the years of DOJ oversight.

They hope to continue improving and help other struggling youth detention facilities across the country.

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