Juvenile judge speaks out on DOJ oversight, new report on juvy court

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - There's a new fight over lifting juvenile court oversight.

In 2012, the Department of Justice found the court didn't offer due process for all children and discriminated against African-American children.

Juvenile Court Judge Dan Michael said changes have been made and it's not about race.

"Get down here and help us with this problem or get into the community as help us and quit complaining," Judge Michael said.

Judge Michael has tough words for the many critics who say the court has not improved when it comes to disproportionate minority contact or DMC.

He said the juvy court has added more programs and reduced juvy transports since the department of justice stepped in five years ago.

But, now he said in many ways his hands are tied.

"I want the community to tell me why my detention center is full of black children?" Judge Michael said.

He said the real issue relates to poverty, a lack of education and too often having to deal with this.

"A lot of times you'll have these moms they are completely overwhelmed and they'll say he can't come home, he can't come he's too much trouble," Judge Michael said.

But, critics still want to see accountability by way of DOJ oversight.

We tracked down a July 1 DOJ report saying in part, "Juvenile Court has taken ownership and has made strides but DMC and the disparate treatment of black youth still exists."

"So if we don't have the agreement, if we don't have the reports," said community advocate Cardell Orrin. "We don't know if they've made progress."

The report also found black youth continue to be underrepresented in diversion and although overall numbers have declined, more black kids are being transferred to adult court.

"It bothers me because it means our kids are being treated unjustly, inequitably," Orrin said.

Judge Michael maintains his hands are tied and no longer wants DOJ oversight.

"I've got 72 kids upstairs in the detention center right now, and all but a couple of them are black," Judge Michael said.

Click below to read the DOJ report.

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