Task force speaks out about discrimination report at juvenile court

(WMC-TV) - For the first time since the Justice Department released a scathing report about Shelby County Juvenile Court, the people who help troubled youth are speaking out.

A new 25 member task force is serious about making a difference. They want to address the issue of juvenile delinquency by introducing strategies to prevent it. When it comes to juvenile delinquency, law enforcement, educators, pastors, and community leaders are committed to making changes.

"It's very personal to me. For the past five years I've been trying to regain custody of my children at juvenile court," said Kimerie Tate.

The group is teaming up with the "Disproportionate Minority Contact and Confinement Task Force" or DMC. A group of concerned citizens who have made it their mission to ensure equal and fair treatment for every youth in the juvenile system, regardless of race and ethnicity.

"Our objective is to continue to educate the public. Making them aware this is an issue and see if we can bridge the gap to provide equal opportunities for all kids going through the court system," explained John Hall, DMC Task Force.

The study released by the justice department last week found that the courts failed to provide constitutionally due process to all children appearing for delinquency proceedings. It also said the courts failed to inform them of their rights, and subjected minors to unnecessary and excessive restraints.

The investigation also determined the court system discriminates against black children and fails to provide safe conditions for juveniles in custody.

"Unless there are some changes at that place where there is a climate of transparency where the judges know they'll be held accountable for what they do, then it'll just return to business as usual," said Tate.

Hall says the statistics are startling. More than 70 percent of youths in secure detention facilities in Tennessee are black.

"It's our hope that we come together, rally around this report and do what is necessary to address the deficiencies. That's the biggest challenge," said Hall.

The group says the public can address juvenile justice and minority issues by getting involved with children in the community through volunteering, mentoring, and tutoring.

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