Basic services, 2022

  • Overall

    Mostly state operated

  • Detention

    Locally operated

  • Probation

    Mostly state operated

  • Reentry

    Mostly state operated

Tennessee's delinquency services are organized at both the state and local level. Secure detention in Tennessee is administered locally by executive (county commission/boards or private contractors) or judicial (juvenile courts) agencies.  

Community supervision in Tennessee is administered by the Department of Children’s Services’ Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), a state executive agency, and local juvenile courts in Davidson, Shelby, Knox, and Hamilton counties.

DJJ also administers commitments to state public facilities and works collboratively with some local probation departments to provide aftercare services for those youth leaving state facilities.

Purpose clauses, 2016

  • No clause

  • Parens patriae

  • Due process era

  • Balanced and Restorative Justice (BARJ)

  • Developmental Approach

Corrections agency, 2015

  • Independent juvenile corrections agency

  • Family/child welfare agency or division

  • Broad human services agency

  • Adult corrections agency or division

The Tennessee Department of Children Services, Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) administers commitments to state juvenile correctional facilities and reentry services for those youth leaving those facilities.

Intake and diversion, 2016

Initial intake and diversion decision is at the discretion of the juvenile court intake officer.

Statutory time limits for pre- & post-petition court diversions exist.

Solitary confinement, 2016

  • Prohibits punitive confinement

  • Limits punitive confinement

  • No limits on punitive confinement

  • Did not respond

Solitary confinement for punitive purposes is not allowed in Tennessee’s juvenile correctional facilities. Confinement may be used for up to 1 hour when a youth is out of control or for medical, protective, or emergency reasons. Additional time requires reauthorization.  (Adapted from 51 Jurisdiction Survey of Juvenile Solitary Confinement Rules in Juvenile Justice Systems, 2016. Lowenstein Center for the Public Interest at Lowenstein Sandler LLP)

Release decision, 2016

  • Agency

  • Court

  • Parole board

  • Agency and court

Release decisions for youth committed to the Department of Children's Services are the responsibility of the Department and the committing courts. Delinquent youth in Youth Development Centers (YDC) are released when they have met the desired outcomes and action steps of the Family Permanency Plan (FPP) and Individual Program Plan (IPP) and approval of the committing court and the Commissioner of DCS has been given.

Risk assessment, 2020

Organization 2013 2017 2020
Statewide uniform assessment
Layered/regional assessment
Locally administered assessment

In Tennessee, juvenile probation is administered by both the Tennessee Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) and local juvenile courts. There is no requirement for local juvenile courts to implement a risk/needs assessment, though various tools are in use across the state. DJJ administrative policy requires the use of the Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths (CANS)statewide.

Information gathered from the CANS is used to develop/inform pre-disposition investigation reports and/or planning, develop probation disposition recommendations to the juvenile court, assign probation supervision level, and develop probation case plans.

Sex offender registration, 2015


Risk instruments, 2017

  • Statute or agency policy

    Required by state or administrative regulation

  • Agency recommended

    Recommended by probation oversite agency

Risk instruments tool used
Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths (CANS)

Mental health screening, 2014

Requires a research-based mental health screening

  • Secure detention

  • Probation

  • Corrections

Mental health screening tool used
Screening not required

Tennessee encourages the use of the CANS for mental health screening at secure detention, juvenile court intake, probation, and corrections. The use of the CANS at intake to state custody is outlined in a Tennessee Department of Children's Services policy.

The state additionally supports a the Center of Excellence for Children in State Custody at Vanderbilt University. The Center for Excellence provides statewide training and certification for Department of Children's Services staff to reliably use the CANS, and has Master's level staff available in each DCS region to support use of the information for services planning.

The Administrative office of the Courts (AOC) maintains an automated data system for the CANS which can be accessed statewide. Tennessee funds training and technical assistance around the implementation of the CANS but the tool itself is open sourced and is free to all jurisdictions.

Frameworks for evidence-based practices, 2014

  • Statute

    Supporting commitment to EBPs

  • Administrative regulations

    Either in corrections, probation, or the juvenile court

  • Support center

    Or collaboration dedicated to coordinating activities around implementing, evaluating, and sustaining EBPs

  • No stance

    No official stance on EBPs

  • Did not respond

    State did not respond to the survey

Tennessee supports the proliferation of evidence-based programs and practices (EBPs) in juvenile justice through statues that define evidenced based and require programs to submit data to the state and be evidence based to receive state funding. The requirement to collect and submit service delivery and outcome data is outlined in the contracts for services. Additionally, the requirement to keep their organizations information up-to-date in is also outlined in the contracts. The Kids Central TN website is a searchable directory of all services and programs in the state.

The state works closely with Vanderbilt University to receive training and technical assistance around EBPs and data collection and analysis, and utilizes the Standardized Program Evaluation Protocol (SPEP) with its programs.

Recidivism reporting, 2016

Does not publish recidivism consistently over time.

About this project

Juvenile Justice GPS (Geography, Policy, Practice, Statistics) is a project to develop a repository providing state policy makers and system stakeholders with a clear understanding of the juvenile justice landscape in the states.

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