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Rep. Littleton Proposes Commission to Improve Juvenile Justice System

State Rep. Mary Littleton, R-Dickson (Photo: Submitted)


Legislation aimed at helping improve Tennessee’s juvenile justice system is in its final steps before heading to the House floor.


If passed, House Bill 1103 would create the Juvenile Justice Review Commission under the Department of Children’s Services (DCS) and the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth (TCCY) to provide legislative recommendations regarding the juvenile justice system to the General Assembly.  


State Rep. Mary Littleton, R-Dickson, was inspired by her work on the Second Look Commission, which reviews severe child abuse cases. Littleton said, “We see some the worst cases you could imagine.” The goal of the commission is to ensure adequate protection is provided to our state’s children. 

The Juvenile Justice Review Commission would be responsible for reviewing a sampling of adjudicated juvenile cases that contain an element of systemic concern or “critical incident.” 


Critical incidents include escaping from custody, aggressive acts towards DCS staff or other juveniles, self-harming, allegations of abuse by DCS staff, and being admitted into psychiatric in-patient treatment.


Some examples of systemic concern include the juvenile being transferred to an out-of-state facility due to lack of in-state resources, intellectual disability and transfer to an adult facility due to being ruled “unable to be reformed.”

“We want to study these cases and come up with legislation that will stop some of these things from happening, and further help our juveniles with their rehabilitation,” Littleton said.

More than 20 people would make up the commission and include lawmakers, juvenile judges and public defenders, law enforcement officers, child development experts and someone who was an adjudicated juvenile or served time in adult corrections before they were 25 years of age.


The commission's purpose is to provide feedback for lawmakers and DCS staff on how they could better help adjudicated juveniles in their rehabilitation. If passed, the commission’s first report on its progress in fulfilling its duties would be expected by Jan. 1, 2025. Then, the commission would have to submit its first findings and recommendations no later than Jan. 1, 2026, and annually thereafter.


House Bill 1103 is expected to be heard at the final Finance, Ways and Means subcommittee meeting of the 2024 session of the 113th General Assembly.


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