About Us

About Us image of kids

Children's Defense Fund Nashville Team

meet our team

We’re here to resource you and provide you with the tools you need to improve the lives of children in Nashville and beyond.

Find out more about our team »

The vision of the CDF Nashville Team is to work toward dismantling the Cradle to Prison Pipeline™ by increasing preventive supports and services for children in need in order to reduce detention and incarceration. Zero tolerance school discipline policies are a key feeder system into the Cradle to Prison Pipeline, and play a significant role in fueling the dropout crisis. The Nashville Team is working to replace zero tolerance school discipline policies with restorative justice practices and challenging the systems of mass incarceration to shift the local and national conversation away from criminalizing our children at younger and younger ages.

Nationally, 1 in 3 Black and 1 in 6 Latino boys born in 2001 are at risk of imprisonment during their lifetime. While boys are five times as likely to be incarcerated as girls, there are a growing number of Black girls in the juvenile justice system. This rate of incarceration is endangering children at younger and younger ages. This is America's pipeline to prison — a trajectory that leads to marginalized lives, imprisonment and often premature death. Although the majority of fourth graders cannot read at grade level, states spend about three times as much money per prisoner as per public school pupil.

Most suspensions are for nonviolent offenses. Too many schools are pushing children into the juvenile and criminal justice systems to make them someone else’s problem. It is no surprise that so many of the same children who are punished by being pushed out of school go on to become the same ones who drop out and stay away for good. A public high school student drops out of school every eight seconds during the school year. And it should be even less surprising when many of the young people who drop out are the same ones whose behavior we continue to complain about and fear and for whom we pay to build costly prison cells later. States are spending on average three times more per prisoner than per public school pupil. This is a dumb investment policy, for our children who are the nation’s future.

The Nashville Team of the Children’s Defense Fund is comprised of five energetic and charismatic people who are determined to make a difference in the way we look at the Cradle to Prison Pipeline in this country. This group of organizers, artists, teachers, and ministers are using nonviolent direct action organizing strategies, informed by the Civil Rights Movement, to inflame, ignite, and deepen the emerging movement against mass incarceration in America. We will use a three-tiered approach to our work: giving agency to primary voices in the conversation surrounding the pipeline to prison, using a spiritual/theological lens to examine the crisis and its implications, and make community-based organizing the focus of the work. Our collective experiences allow us to approach this work through a broad lens, to reach people, and challenge the Cradle to Prison Pipeline and mass incarceration.