Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Child Held in State Prison Released on Bond

Posted By on Wed, May 16, 2018 at 3:12 PM

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A 16-year-old Memphis girl was released on bond Wednesday after spending 43 days in an empty, segregated wing of a women's prison and without ever being convicted of a crime.

Rosalyn "Bird" Holmes was arrested in Collierville in January after she and three other teenagers robbed a man at gunpoint on the Highland Strip. The teenagers forced the man to drive his truck to his Collierville home where they stole items and made the man take money from an ATM.

Holmes was kept in the prison before her trial and before she was indicted on any charges thanks to Tennessee's "safekeeping" rule. The controversial law allows judges to send alleged offenders to state prisons while they await trial. State corrections policy mandates "safekeepers" be held in solitary confinement.

According to an investigation by The Tennessean, from "January 2011 through 2017, more than 320 people awaiting trial in the state were declared safekeepers."

Holmes was released on $60,000 bond Wednesday by members of the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights organization. The release culminated work done by The Official Black Lives Matter Memphis Chapter and Just City to find support from locals and national organizations.

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"What happened to Rosalyn Holmes is far from 'safekeeping,'" said Kerry Kennedy, president of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights. "Even though Rosalyn has not been convicted of a crime, the state sent a 16-year-old child over 50 miles from her family and segregated her in an adult prison. In no way do those actions serve the cause of justice."

Tennessee's safekeeping law was reviewed by the Tennessee General Assembly this year. Changes lawmakers made to the law would, in part, prevent juveniles from being sent to state prisons.
click to enlarge Mark Norris
  • Mark Norris

Much of the legislation this year was led by Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville). The changes to the laws only await the signature from Governor Bill Haslam.

A statement from Just City said children held in adult detention facilities "are more susceptible to abuse, at greater risk of suicide and are more likely to reoffend."

“The idea that we are doing this to teenage girls in 2018 is astonishing," said Josh Spickler, executive director of Just City. "Children, especially children who are charged with crimes, need very specific and very specialized treatment because of their unique needs and vulnerability.

"Putting them in adult prisons miles from home is almost the worst thing we could do as a community. We’re thrilled to have so many advocates working to reunite Bird with her family.”

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