WATCH: Report reveals racial disparities in Shelby County’s youth justice system WATCH: Report reveals racial disparities in Shelby County’s youth justice system
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A criminal justice reform advocacy group on Monday accused Shelby County leaders of failing black children in Memphis.
“There are far too many black children still trapped in the system,” said Josh Spickler, executive director of Just City.
“We need to treat young people differently,” wrote Cardell Orrin, executive director of Stand for Children. “We need a system that doesn’t just send them back to adult court, even when they make what we might consider the worst possible decisions.”
The group highlighted a report that accuses the county of failing to improve a 2012 Justice Department investigation. A decade ago, the DOJ found that the Memphis and Shelby County Juvenile Court had violated the constitutional rights of children accused of crimes.
“The community is right to be outraged,” Spickler said.
In 2012, the highly critical Department of Justice report found that black children were twice as likely to be transferred to the adult system as their white peers. From 2005 to 2009, 95.5% of children transferred to adult custody were black, according to the report.
“It’s the worst sentence possible to send a child into the adult system,” Spickler said. “The ramifications for the rest of this child’s life are impossible to calculate, but they are almost catastrophic.”
Monday’s report, published by Josh Perry of Elm 1 Consulting and Advocacy, found little improvement in “significant racial disparities” in the system.
“We have to treat young people differently,” Orrin said. “We need a system that doesn’t just send them back to adult court, even when they make what we might consider the worst possible decisions.”
You can read the entire 76-page report here.
FOX13 is waiting for Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris and administrators of Shelby County Juvenile Court to respond to the report.
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