The Kids of Rutherford County

Serial Productions & The New York Times

From Serial Productions and The New York Times in partnership with ProPublica and Nashville Public Radio, “The Kids of Rutherford County” is reported and hosted by Meribah Knight, a Peabody-award winning reporter based in the South. For over a decade, one Tennessee county arrested and illegally jailed hundreds, maybe thousands, of children. A four-part narrative series reveals how this came to be, the adults responsible for it, and the two lawyers, former juvenile delinquents themselves, who try to do something about it. read less

Our Editor's Take

The true crime podcast The Kids of Rutherford County begins with the story of Brandon. The boy was only seven years old when police showed up at his door to arrest him. Brandon tagged along with his older brothers, who'd wrestled in an empty duplex. While doing so, they left some holes in the drywall. Now, police were there to take Brandon and his brothers to the Juvenile Detention Center.

The podcast continues to explain that Brandon should have gone home with his mom the next day. The judge decided to send him back to jail for a week. His arrest and detention happened in Rutherford County, Tennessee. His case wasn't unique there. The county arrested and jailed kids for even the most minor offenses for over a decade.

In 2016, the county detained eleven Black schoolchildren, some of them as young as eight years old. It was because they didn't stop a fight between other children. Other kids received jail time for not wanting to go to school, running away, or spray painting a wall. It happened so often to so many kids that getting sent to juvenile detention was almost a rite of passage. In many cases, it also was illegal. This podcast is about how that system came to be and how it became so common and even accepted.

The Kids of Rutherford County is a four-part series. Journalist Meribah Knight follows the story of the children who did nothing wrong. They were only acting their age. The podcast host exposes an infuriating chain of events that led to a corrupt court system. Meribah reveals how an influential judge could appoint a jailer who would play along with an illegal pursuit. She also investigates how most adults never thought to question this system. Finally, two lawyers who dealt with the same issue decided to take action. This podcast tells the full compelling story.

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