Federal oversight of county juvenile justice reduced
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — The U.S. Department of Justice says it no longer needs to keep such intense oversight over a Tennessee county’s juvenile court system that had previously been accused of discrimination and maintaining unsafe conditions.
The DOJ will end 14 subsections of the memorandum of agreement between the Shelby County government, Juvenile Court and DOJ, citing substantial compliance with the measure for one year, according to a document obtained by The Commercial Appeal and reported Friday . It will still maintain some oversight over the juvenile court system.
The DOJ began oversight in 2012 after a report found failings in the system, including discrimination against black children, unsafe confinement conditions and lack of due process.
The 14 provisions involve hearings that determine whether to transfer a child to adult court, training about due process of law, determination of probable cause and protecting children from harm. Juvenile Court Judge Dan Michael credited progress to court employees, the county government and the sheriff’s office.
DOJ officials expressed confidence in the court system’s progress, but told Shelby County officials that it would be premature to fully end federal oversight.
A July assessment study found that black children were still treated differently, among other persistent issues.
“Continued evidence also suggests that race still impacts decision-making even after factors such as the severity of the crime are taken into consideration,” the study found.
In June, city officials, including Michael, wrote a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions requesting an end to federal oversight, a move that received pushback from local advocates. County Attorney Kathryn Pascover and Assistant County Attorney John Marshall Jones asked for the termination of certain provisions in September.
Josh Spickler, the executive director of local advocacy group Just City, said the group is concerned that premature withdrawal would cause the reasons for the initial intervention to be forgotten.
Information from: The Commercial Appeal, http://www.commercialappeal.com