Justice Advocates Warn Community About Proposed Shelby County Juvenile Assessment Center

“I applaud Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell for giving Public Defender Stephen Bush more autonomy. Frankly, Bush needs even more than authority to execute his Blueprint to Achieve Compliance with respect to Juvenile Defender Services. Juvenile detainees should have legal representation at every phase of their case. That includes during probation hearings as well as other related court appearances.”
– Shelby County Commissioner Van Turner.

This Sunday, The Commercial Appeal looked at what Memphis justice advocates had to say about the proposal to create what are commonly called Juvenile Assessment Centers (JAC) in Shelby County. The previous week, the Commercial Appeal published pieces from those in support of JACs. The idea is to intervene with resources in the lives of young people who get into trouble, so that they do not get entangled in the criminal justice system. If developed, the facility will be called a Youth Assessment and Resource Center or (YARC).

But a major concern is that this center could result in “net widening” and actually bring more young people of color into an already broken system.

Click this story link to read Shelby County Commissioner Van Turner’s perspective. Commissioner Turner says anyone serious about addressing poverty and crime in Memphis should be paying close attention to what happens in Juvenile Court and with the proposed JACs

Bill Powell, the original settlement coordinator for the DOJ’s agreement with Shelby County also brought in his experience. Powell resigned this summer after learning the County and Juvenile Court had sent a letter to the DOJ requesting the agreement be terminated. Read his piece here.

Cardell Orrin, director of Stand for Children Memphis believes Shelby County’s proposed JAC should be less law enforcement centered and more youth-centered: Click this link to read his perspective.

Rev. Cheryl Beard, a leader of Memphis Interfaith Coalition for Action and Hope is concerned that our community is approaching reform of the juvenile justice system as a “checklist” – her thoughts are outlined here.

Prof. Demetria Frank with the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law founded Project M.I., an advocacy group focused on mass incarceration and juvenile justice. Prof. Frank sounds the alarm that because Shelby County Juvenile Court has still not made progress in the equal protection of black children, it is destined to repeat the same culture in the JACs. Read her article here.

Read all the stories from those who are both concerned and supportive of building a JAC in Memphis here.

You can also learn more about the DOJs decision to terminate portions of the Juvenile Court agreement here.

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