Local Judge Speaks Out On 'School To Prison Pipeline'

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A local judge has been speaking out on the "school to prison pipeline" as she feels our system is broken. 

On April 15, an 11-year-old and 12-year-old were arrested in downtown Nashville for shooting two people with B.B. gun pellets. Just days before, Metro police said the 11-year-old was arrested in connection to a robbery. 

Judge Sheila Calloway said this was just an example of how suspects committing serious crime keep getting younger and younger. 

"This is a time in their life that is most critical," Calloway said.

In a small courtroom, kids sit and watch their lives change before them. 

"On both sides, there is never a winner. On both sides there's a lot of grief. On both sides, there's a lot of sorrow," Calloway said. "Sometimes it's a really heavy situation."

The struggle to balance those two objectives weighs heavy on her heart, so she has decided to use her position to create change. 

"When I see youth in this courtroom, they come in here with a feeling of hopelessness," Calloway said.

With the weight of these cases on her shoulders, she has decided to use her position to create change. 

"It's not enough to just be sitting in the courtroom, and ruling from the bench, and trying to make a change just from the bench. I have to do more," Calloway said.

Right now, she's working with Metro Schools, the health department, and advocacy groups on a solution. 

"There is a thing that is real, the school to prison pipeline, and if we don't keep our children in school, engaged in schools, participating in schools, and doing the best they can, then the end result is that they end up in prison," Calloway said.

She feels that families, churches, and advocacy groups need to be a part of the answer, too.

"We as a village have to raise them together, and I think we're missing that village piece," Calloway said.

Judge Calloway also feels the juvenile age should be moved to 25. Through studies, she has learned that people don't fully understand consequences until then.

She is also an advocate for social emotional learning. That means addressing trauma in students' lives before they're thrown into learning.

In her experience, mentoring has proven successful.

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