Criminal Justice Task Force

NOAH’s Progress in Criminal Justice Issues



SCHOOL DISCIPLINE ISSUES — African-Americans make up 44% of public school students, but 77% of suspensions and expulsions.

  • February 2016 — NOAH successfully advocated for Metro School Board to create special committee on racial disparity in school suspensions and expulsions. NOAH held a public meeting of 225 people to hear about disparity and “restorative practice.” 
  • June and July 2016 — NOAH held five public meetings with School Board candidates, with commitments to work with NOAH on these racial disparities. Over 550 people participated.
  • August 2016 — Due to NOAH’s work, Metro Schools hired four new trainers in “restorative practice” that aims at problem-solving instead of merely punishing students.
    1. Quarterly meetings with Dr. Joseph, new Director of Schools (began February 8, 2017)
    2. NOAH leaders following up on “restorative practice” being used in some schools
    3. Pushing School Board to re-convene special committee on racial disparity


MENTAL HEALTH DIVERSION FROM JAIL — About 1800 people are in Metro Jail, 58% black and 35% white. NOAH’s goal is to reduce the jail population by 50%. Over 30% of the inmates are mentally ill, so diverting mentally ill people to treatment instead of incarceration would reduce this population and improve people’s lives dramatically.

  • January 2015 to present — NOAH has engaged Mayor’s Office, Sheriff, District Attorney, Public Defender, Health Department, and others on mental health diversion. NOAH leaders met regularly with the Metro Health Department, which is developing a plan to be presented to the Mayor in March of 2017.
  • January 2015 to present — NOAH leaders have met many times with Sheriff Daron Hall on his plans for a separate mental health facility in the new jail (three to five years off) and on coordinating with others. NOAH has raised questions about justification for the size of the new jail.
  • June 2016 to present — NOAH leaders and a retired Mental Health Court Judge have met with statewide mental health advocates. This loose coalition met with the Tennessee Commissioner on Mental Health and the Deputy Governor about state funding for mental health diversion.
  • January 30, 2017 — Governor’s budget was announced, including $15 million for mental health diversion from jails across the state.
    1. Meeting with local state legislators to keep funding in budget
    2. Working with statewide advocates for rules on use of the new funding


POLICE PROFILING — Data from Metro Police show that African-American drivers are stopped and searched over three times as much as whites, with less incriminating evidence found.

  • June 2016 to present — Research on data from Metro Police.
  • October 2016 — NOAH met with Mayor Megan Barry on progress in her first year. Over 1700 people heard her commitments on housing, jobs, and criminal justice, including $12 million for body cameras for police officers.
  • December 2016 — NOAH Criminal Justice Task Force supported bills in Metro Council, to have police respond to data on racial profiling and to begin providing annual reports.
    1. More research on police data
    2. Pushing for a Civilian Review Board as a way to improve police and community relations


Walter Searcy,
Elizabeth Waites, 

A pdf of NOAH’s platform on criminal justice is here.