Rutherford County Juvenile Detention Center

Rutherford County Juvenile Detention Center

The Rutherford County Juvenile Detention Center is the subject of a recent $11 million class-action settlement, which means that around 1,500 people who were illegally arrested and/or jailed as minors are eligible for payouts, some of whom were or are from Williamson County.

According to the Associated Press, the lawsuit challenged the illegal incarceration of minors for misdemeanor charges, while Tennessee law only allows the pretrial incarceration of minors for violent felonies, weapons offenses or probation violation. 

“The juveniles that are arrested in Rutherford County are being deprived of their procedural due process rights, which is unquestionably irreparable harm,” Nashville Chief U.S. District Court Judge Waverly D. Crenshaw Jr. said. 

One of the lawyers involved in filing the lawsuit is Frank Ross Brazil of the law firm Brazil Clark PLLC, who along with fellow attorneys Kyle Mothershead and Mark Downton, have been working for five years to secure justice for these children, many of whom are now adults. 

“I do think that these kids are spread out throughout Middle Tennessee and some even farther,” Brazil said in a phone call, adding that potential eligible arrest claims stretch back to October of 1997, with only around 200 claims having been filed so far. 

The Rutherford County Juvenile Detention Center was also thrown into the spotlight when earlier this month ProPublica, in partnership with Nashville Public Radio, published a story about the 2016 arrest and jailing of Hobgood Elementary School students. Some of the students were said to have witnessed a fight off of school grounds, which was not a crime.

That story sparked national outrage and resulted in Judge Donna Scott Davenport losing her adjunct professor position at Middle Tennessee State University

“This can happen anywhere that we let it happen,” Brazil said. “This is something that took a system and is representative of problems that are not limited to Rutherford County and this particular judge.”

The Oct. 29 deadline for any eligible claims in the $11 million settlement is fast approaching, and Brazil said that he encourages anyone who may be eligible for the settlement to go to where they can fill out a claim form, or by calling Brazil Clark PLLC directly at (615) 265-1571.