Criminal Justice Task Force

NOAH’s Progress in Criminal Justice Issues

BACKGROUND

 


COMMUNITY OVERSIGHT BOARD — The Community Oversight Nashville coalition, which includes NOAH, continues working for a Community Oversight Board for Nashville, hoping to establish democratic accountability and disciplinary control over the Metro Nashville Police Department (MNPD).

  • A Community Oversight Board (COB) is an agency staffed with civilians, and not sworn officers, charged with investigating civilian complaints of misconduct by the police. Nashville doesn’t have a COB; civilian complaints of police misconduct are addressed by the police.

  • Community Oversight Board Legislation is being proposed by the Community Oversight Nashville Coalition that utilizes the “best practices” of oversight boards throughout the nation.

  • August 2017 (meeting handout HERE) — Public Informational Meeting on COBs was held at Alameda Christian Church. There was a great turnout, with 60 people in attendance on a Sunday evening. We witnessed great dialogue, questions, and suggestions for improvement! Among those attending were the chairperson of NOAH, the Rev. Ed Thompson, and Council Members Sharon Hurt and Brett Withers.

  • NEXT STEPS

    1. A second Public Informational Meeting is scheduled for Sunday, September 10, at Edgehill United Methodist Church, 1502 Edgehill Avenue.

    2. More meetings with congregations and community groups.

    3. Meetings with Metro Council Members around draft legislation for Community Oversight Board.

The Community Oversight Nashville coalition includes NOAH, Gideon's Army, Interdenominational Ministers Fellowship, Nashville NAACP, Tennessee NAACP, Black Lives Matter Nashville, Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) Nashville, Urban EpiCenter, Democracy Nashville and Democratic Communities, Worker's Dignity, Nashville Peacemakers, and Justice for Jocques Coalition.

 


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.

  • NEXT STEPS

    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. Meeting with school officials for more data on racial disparity

    4. Planning meetings with parents around the city.

 


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.

  • May 2017 - State legislature adopts budget, including the $15 million!

  • NEXT STEPS

    1. Meeting with state officials about use of these funds

    2. Working with statewide advocates on making this into annual 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.

  • March 2017 - "Community Oversight Nashville" Coalition forms to work for a Community Oversight Board for Metro Police.

  • May-July 2017 - NOAH and coalition hold meetings with congregations and groups, as well as Metro Council Members.

  • NEXT STEPS

    1. More meetings with congregations and community groups.

    2. Meetings with Metro Council Members around draft legislation for Community Oversight Board.

 


TASK FORCE CHAIR  
Walter Searcy, delphico@bellsouth.net

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