Steven Hal Jones

Hal Jones 

Steven Hal Jones'71
1997 Award of Honor

Judge Steven Jones is an outstanding individual and embodies the spirit of service we should all have toward our fellow man. It is a personal honor for me to know Judge Jones. His commitment to improving his community is a true inspiration. He not only promotes good character, but lives it on a daily basis. The children and families of Tennessee are certainly blessed to have a positive role model like Judge Steven Jones," comments Senator Bill Frist who recently nominated Jones for the 1997 President"s Service Award.

Jones' legal experience, judicial activities, honors and awards are too numerous to list. The impact he has made on improving the administration of justice in Tennessee for juveniles is almost unprecedented. When the case concerns restitution among juvenile delinquents, Steven Jones takes innovative concepts and turns them into effective, efficient reality. Whoever says that social reform programs do not work has not stepped into Judge Jones' court room. From 1986 until 1990, a time when juvenile court numbers were increasing nationally and state-wide, cases filed in Jones' Juvenile Court dropped a steady 20 percent. Steven Jones has established an unparalleled legacy within the Juvenile Court system in Tennessee.

Jones is a native of Kingsport and is a graduate of Dobyns-Bennett High School. While working various jobs, Steve attained academic honors at ETSU and graduated in 1971 with a bachelor of science degree in political science and history. Working to put himself through law school, he earned his Doctor of Jurisprudence from Memphis State University in 1973. He has received additional specialized education in criminal law at Tulane and at Northwestern University.

From 1974 until 1976, Steven was in private practice in Kingsport, dealing mostly in civil law and accepting criminal appointments. For the next eight years as Sullivan County Assistant District Attorney (1976-1984), Steven tried thousands of criminal cases varying from D.U.I. to murder cases involving the death penalty and was a prosecutor on the well-known Ronald Richard Harries case. During the 1970s, he led a successful campaign bringing higher conviction rates, more fines and longer jail terms for drunk drivers which resulted in a program that was named a state model. Jones also began implementing innovative solutions such as the Restitution and Community Service Program as part of domestic violence and substance abuse court probation requirements to crack down on adult offenders and juveniles as well. He has written numerous state laws to improve our system of justice.

In 1984, Steven Jones was unanimously elected by the Sullivan County Commission becoming a judge for Sullivan County, Division II, General Sessions and Juvenile Court. Two years later, he ran as an unopposed Republican and was elected. In 1990, he was re-elected by the voters. During this time of service, Steve developed numerous programs and helped to establish facilities for children who are at-risk, unruly, or substance abusers. He has made it his personal quest to develop innovative programs in order to turn juvenile delinquents into productive citizens by keeping them out of the mainstream correctional facilities.

Several of the programs which Jones initiated in Sullivan County to improve children's services have received state-wide recognition. Among them are Link House, Sullivan House, EPPIC (East Tennessee professionals and parents involved cooperatively), Character Counts!, Project REACH (Regeneration through education, accountability, and counseling for harmony), LEARN IT, Cloud Nine, the Child Protection Fair, and significant involvement in CASA (court appointed special advocate program). He was also an integral voice in the endorsement and construction of the Upper East Tennessee Juvenile Detention Center and was a key advocate of Holston Point, a residential treatment program for youngsters with behavioral and emotional problems. He has recently developed a shock incarceration program and a facility for hard-core youth offenders.

The Sullivan House, which is a state model, is just one of the opportunities he has made available to some youth, giving them a much needed second chance. The Sullivan House was almost closed before Steve decided to take the halfway home under his wing in order to overhaul the juvenile treatment center. It serves as a boys' and girls' regional juvenile detention center which integrates all resources such as professional counselors, the court system, families, schools, and other resource agencies in the intervention process. Link House, another facility, is a halfway home for abused and abandoned children and operates as a licensed emergency children's shelter. EPPIC is a program which deals with teen substance abuse and educates teachers and parents about pressures that face youth. Project REACH organizes all available resources to keep juveniles out of the mainstream correctional facilities, saved the state nearly $1 million in institutional costs during its first year of operation. "I know it saves the state money," Jones said, "but the critical thing is saving the kids." He spends his evenings talking to civic and community organizations to prevent the problems that lead to crime and destruction. He develops his own resources for many of his programs without relying on government funding.

Undoubtedly, Judge Jones has saved hundreds, even thousands of youth from a lifestyle of crime and destruction. He has been recognized by various organizations for his commitment to community and for his dedicated service to the well-being of children through such honors as the Times-News Community Service Award in 1986, the Citizen of the Year Award in 1987 awarded by the Kingsport Kiwanis Club, Judge of the Year in 1988 and 1992 given by the Kingsport Optimist Club, and the CASA Achievement Award in 1991. The complete list of honors, distinctions, and accomplishments of Steven Jones is far too long to list; however, anyone can see that by his demonstrated actions that he has an exceptional record of integrity and another superior example of ETSU PRIDE.

Jones and his wife, "Ginny," are the proud parents of three sons, Brad, Jason, and Wesley.