The Bridge to a New Juvenile Court 

A happy family is gathered around a kitchen island while a meal is being prepared. Two children look on while a mother and father dance. A third child is filming the dance with her mobile phone.

Our Vision to Create a Trauma-Informed Space for our Community

Nashville's new planned facility — The Bridge — will create a new therapeutic and restorative space to consolidate current Juvenile Court services, and add additional ones, for youth and their families.
Nashville's current Juvenile Court facility lacks the space and resources needed to engage in the best juvenile justice practices. The current Juvenile Justice Center was built in 1993 at a time when Juvenile Court offered less comprehensive services to the community.  With the growth of Nashville's population and the expansion of juvenile justice programs, there is a need to create a more trauma-informed space to better respond to the needs of our youth and families in a restorative and equitable manner.
Thanks to "The Bridge" PIP, a new vision for a multipurpose Juvenile Court facility has been created with input from diverse members of our community, service providers, and leaders in juvenile justice. It will offer space for the very best in juvenile assessment and resource linkage to promote restoration of families and our community. The facility will be a place where youth and families can turn for support and court services in a respectful and equitable environment.
Through this Public Investment Plan, Juvenile Court and community representatives worked with leading experts in trauma-informed design to create a Master Plan for the new juvenile facility.  We worked closely with the DLR Group and consultants from Chinn Planning, Smith Gee Studio, Genesys Engineering Group, MEPS Engineering Services, Archangel Protective Services, Connico Inc., Wilmot Inc., to develop a cutting edge Master Plan.   

An Evolving Model for Justice

Since the 2014 election of Judge Sheila Calloway, Davidson County Juvenile Court has undergone a transformation, putting an emphasis on restorative justice, early intervention, and trauma-informed practices. (Learn more about the Restorative Justice & the Arts program, for example, which connects court-involved youth with arts-based programming.) 
Along with adding new programs, the Court is aligned with the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) model that asks "what happened to the child?" instead of "what is wrong with the child?" 

What Is Restorative Justice? 

In her 2017 TEDx Talk, Judge Sheila D.J. Calloway defines restorative justice, explaining the benefits of this system for victims, court-involved youth, and the community. 

“We can no longer rely on incarceration, expulsion, and 'scared straight' programs to solve the problems with our youth.  What we have to do is LOVE our children in order to stop the cradle to prison pipeline." 
—Judge Sheila Calloway

What Will "The Bridge" Provide? 

The Bridge will be much more than a courthouse. Here are four new services the facility will provide to Nashville's families: 
  1. A 24/7 Assessment Center — Instead of taking youth arrested for status and low-level, non-detainable offenses to the Juvenile Detention Center, police will bring them to the Assessment Center, which will provide immediate intervention to address issues causing family conflict, instability, and unruly or delinquent behavior. Trained staff will be available 24/7 for assessment and  to refer children and families to appropriate services.
  2. Respite Center — Currently, the only option for children who cannot immediately return to their home is placing them in the Department of Children’s Services custody or securing a short term placement at the Oasis Center, which does not always have beds available. The Bridge will provide short-term housing for juveniles in crisis or transition, such as children returning home from runaway status, awaiting long-term residential placement, or in need of a break from their home environment while appropriate services are procured for the family.  
  3. A New, Expanded Location for the Metro Student Attendance Center (MSAC) — Juvenile Court's enhanced truancy prevention services include daily court hearings for children arrested for loitering while school is in session. This strategic effort, however, has caused MSAC to outgrow the current building where services are provided. The Bridge will allow larger, more efficient spaces, as well as location that's served by public transportation. 
  4. A Youth Employment Center — The Bridge will further Metro Nashville's goal to connect youth with job opportunities, by providing a centralized location for youth to find services and get help finding a job. 

"We must set out to achieve excellence and to imbue in ALL children the understanding that they are 'somebody.'"
-Judge Sheila Calloway

The Benefits of 24/7 Staffing

When youth are detained for minor delinquency matters, curfew violations, or other low-level offenses, they should not automatically be placed in the deep end of the juvenile justice system just because it's the middle of the night. With a 24-hour center available, staff can assess detained youth right away, determining needs and the best next steps, without requiring a stay in the detention facility. 
"Based on studies conducted by Dr. Edward Mulvey and others, we know that it is best practice to have children remain in their community instead of out of home placements whenever possible.  The 24 hour center will enable us to keep youth bonded with their local community with access to their families and support systems.  This will lead to less offending behavior by juveniles and make our community safer."
—Raymond Jenkins, Chief Probation Officer

For information regarding the negative effects of unnecessary out of home placement of youth, please click on the link below. 

"We want people to know Juvenile Court is a place for the whole community.  Every Halloween, several hundred children come here for an annual celebration called Spooktacular.  This event is just one example of the expanded services and community-building the Juvenile Court offers to youth and families."
—Kathryn Sinback, Juvenile Court Administrator

Why It Matters

When open, The Bridge will serve as a center of rehabilitation and hope for the youth  and families of Nashville. It will offer the following benefits every year: 
  • 3,300 youth will receive immediate assessment and be connected with services at the Assessment Center rather than spending a night in Juvenile Detention
  • 312 youth will use the Respite Center 
  • 3,600 families of youth receiving services through the Assessment and Respite Centers will be able to be present and receive links to services for parents, guardians, and siblings
  • Approximately 1,200 citizens will have improved access to the truancy-reduction services provided by MSAC

Our PIP Partners

  • Juvenile Court
  • Metro Nashville Police Department 
  • Metro Nashville Public Safety 
  • Metro Homelessness Commission 
  • Oasis Center
  • Nashville Career Advancement Center 
  • YouthCan program
  • JobCorps
  • Goodwill Industries
  • Nashville Chamber of Commerce
  • Martha O’Bryan Center
  • Be a Helping Hand
  • Urban League of Middle TN
  • Christian Women Job Corps
  • Metro Nashville Workforce Development Program at JUMP
  • Davidson County Vocational Rehabilitation Regional Center
  • Tennessee Career Center
  • Metro Action Commission 

Progress Toward The Bridge 

The PIP funded a master plan for The Bridge, so that the new space can be constructed in a thoughtful, effective manner. Step one on this process was to select a vendor to scope out the work.
DLR Group, Inc., an integrated design firm, was selected in fall 2016, and set to work determining the precise amount of space necessary, meeting with stakeholders, and digging into best practices from juvenile justice centers nationwide.
Quarter 1 Milestones
  • Identified key project partners
  • Developed a detailed scope of work for creating the Juvenile Justice Center Master Plan, including identifying facility and space needs 
  • After reviewing request for quotation (RFQ) submissions, issued an Intent to Award Notification to the selected vendor, DLR Group Inc., October 2016
Quarter 2 Milestones
  • DLR Group Inc. initiated the project in November 2016 with a kickoff meeting, tour of the existing Juvenile Justice Center facility, and initial interviews with key court and detention staff
  • In December 2016, DLR Group convened a workshop to discuss preliminary findings related to the existing facility and current juvenile justice and juvenile detention “best practice” concepts impacting program and space planning
Quarter 3 Milestones
  • DLR Group delivered two important reports to the working group: New Facility Probable Cost and a  Summary of Basis for Area Increases. These reports covered costs and the need for additional space in the facility 

Our Goals

We will measure The Bridge's success by tallying the: 
  • Number of non-detainable youth diverted from Juvenile Detention
  • Number of youth housed at the Respite Center as an alternative to entering the Department of Children’s Services' custody
  • Number of human trafficking victims or youth at-risk for human trafficking identified and served at The Bridge
  • Number of juveniles assessed and linked with appropriate services
Over the long term, other success measures will include reduction in juvenile delinquency, reduction in juvenile recidivism, and reduction in juveniles’ future involvement with the adult criminal justice system.

See More PIP Projects

Public Investment Planning is an innovative approach to budgeting, launched in 2016, that challenges Metro departments and agencies to think creatively about how they can collaborate on pilot initiatives to better serve Nashville-Davidson County residents. Learn more at