Justice Department seeks to fix problems in juvenile justice

Justice Department seeks to fix problems in juvenile justice

Call it an early Christmas present of sorts, especially for teens in Shelby
County, Tenn., but a good hard look at how young people have been treated
in the juvenile justice system has resulted in an historic agreement between
the Justice Department and Shelby County – and this may be just
the first of its kind.

The agreement, as Kim Severson reports for the New York Times, seeks to
fix a number of very serious problems involving injustice, including:

  • Strapping kids to restraint chairs for long periods of time and leaving
    them alone
  • Not giving those kids proper hearings while they sat in jail cells
  • No Miranda warnings (“You have the right to an attorney…”)
  • Court documents not being provided to the defendants until just prior to
    hearings (if at all)

Severson writes that the jailed teens of Shelby County attempted suicide
at “record rates,” and given the problems listed above, it’s
no wonder why. There are probably other serious issues with Shelby County
that have gone unreported, like physical or emotional abuse, though that’s
pure speculation.

Crime researchers have noticed that overall rates of juvenile crime have
dropped across the nation, due in part to changes in public policy like
the decriminalization of
marijuana. And because states can no longer afford to incarcerate juveniles at recent
rates, other initiatives similar to the Justice Department’s agreement
with Shelby County have been gaining ground.

Deal Designed to Overhaul Juvenile Justice in Tennessee