In 2012 the Department of Justice (DOJ) identified around 120 issues with Shelby County Juvenile Justice system, many of which concerned disproportionate treatment of youth of color. According to recent findings “nearly half of the items under the equal protection category are in ‘partial compliance.’ Only 25 percent, or eight items in that category, were in ‘full compliance.'” (Commercial Appeal)
While several local officials, including newly elected Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris, assure constituents that local oversight will continue, others are not as convinced. “When we say equal protection, we’re talking about African-American and Latino children who are in the system, and they’re being unfairly treated and not receiving equal access to justice, equal access to their rights,” said Commission Chairman Van Turner. “For them to pull oversight at this juncture — it should trouble everyone in this county.”
Furthermore, multiple Shelby county commissioners have expressed concern that they only found out about this change from the media. “This underhanded decision, this underhanded move just really makes me wonder whose children matter,” said Commissioner Tami Sawyer. “And until we can see that all kids do matter, that black and brown kids matter in Shelby County, we’ll have to continue to fight.”
The Juvenile Justice Project is committed to working with those directly affected by the justice system here in Memphis. Too often we see that the difference between intervention and jail sentences depend on skin color and socioeconomic levels. We will continue following this story and working towards a true system of Justice for our youth. Youth are the solution, not the problem!