Approved bill sets up ‘safety centers’ for juveniles violating curfew

The Tennessee Senate approved a bill Monday that will let Memphis set up juvenile safety centers around the city for minors who violate curfew, reports the Commercial Appeal.

The bill passed the Senate in a 32-0 vote and likely will receive approval in the House before the end of the legislative session — possibly next week, said Sen. Sara Kyle, D-Memphis and the bill’s sponsor. (Note: It’s SB666, sponsored by Rep. Karen Camper in the House, where it has cleared committees and awaits approval in a House floor vote.)

Modeled after a program in Baltimore, the bill would give police officers the option to take juveniles who violate curfew to city-operated safety centers where they can receive counseling. Currently, officers can only take them home, which is sometimes complicated by family situations, or to juvenile detention, which counts on their records.

“This program has worked in other places,” Kyle said. “It’s an opportunity to help both the child and the community.”

Mayor A C Wharton, who asked for the bill last year following a number of high-profile crime incidents involving minors, acknowledged that juveniles rarely get picked up for curfew violations — an admission that, in an election year, is sure to raise questions about whether the overnight centers will be worth the cost.

Larry Scroggs, Juvenile Court chief administrative officer, didn’t return calls seeking information about the number of curfew violations per year.