New juvy court policy issues summons in lieu of being detained

By Kontji Anthony - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - A sweeping change at Memphis and Shelby County Juvenile Court was announced Monday that officials hope will give guidance to offenders while freeing up police resources.

Mayor AC Wharton announced the new Summons in Lieu of Transport collaborative at a press conference Monday. Instead of cuffing and incarcerating juveniles on these seven minor crimes, officers are given the power to decide if they should just get a summons.

Summons in Lieu of Transport
  • Disorderly conduct
  • Simple assault
  • Theft under $500
  • Gambling
  • Trespassing
  • Simple Marijuana possession
  • Vandalism under $500

Source: Memphis Police

"Studies show it has a positive effect on children who have their matters handled this way, as opposed to being locked up," Wharton said.

Juvenile Court Judge Curtis Person said nothing would change for juveniles who commit serious crimes.

"But if they commit one of these seven lesser crimes, they do not need to be transported by law enforcement to this court," Person said. "They need to be issued a juvenile summons."

That's where the ministers will step in.

"We can provide individuals from our congregations to be counselors and to be mentors for these children who fall through the cracks," said the Rev. Dwight Montgomery of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Over 500 pastors from the Memphis Baptists Ministerial Association have committed to being surrogates for the new program.  Police Director Larry Godwin said the new policy will be less expensive for his department, and will save precious patrol time.

"Police overtime, the way we respond to calls, and the things we have to do out there of maybe preventing another crime," Godwin said.

Juvenile offenders under Shelby County jurisdiction have always been diverted this way.  The program was expanded to Memphis juvies without fanfare in May.

If you look at stats from the month before, summons versus transport to Juvenile Court for Memphis juvenile offenders was almost even.  Shelby County issued more summons than arrests.

March 2010        MPD    Shelby Co.
Summons:        53%    60%
Transport:        47%    40%
Source: Juvenile Court

Now, Memphis juveniles have more summons than arrests.  Meanwhile, Shelby County has a near 100 percent summons status.

June 2010        MPD    Shelby Co.
Summons:        58.3%    95%
Transport:        41.7%    5%
Source: Juvenile Court

If a juvenile violates the summons agreement, or commits another crime, the original charge will come back.

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