County commission: ‘No confidence’ in DOJ ending oversight of juvenile court

County commission: ‘No confidence’ in DOJ ending oversight of juvenile court

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Shelby County Commission does not agree with the Department of Justice’s decision to end its oversight of the Shelby County juvenile court system.

The commission approved a vote of no confidence in the decision.

Shelby County and the DOJ entered an agreement in 2012 to address some of the findings of an investigation that showed juveniles in the county's detention center were not being cared for properly, and some of their rights violated.

Since that time, the DOJ says the county has made improvements and oversight is no longer necessary.

Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris said he was surprised by the DOJ's decision but has put local oversight in place that he has confidence in.

"There's a lot of concern about what will be the outcome of their decision,” said Shelby County Commissioner Tami Sawyer.

Sawyer introduced the resolution at Wednesday’s committee meeting asking for a vote of no confidence.

County commissioners and the mayor say they were shocked by the abruptness of the decision.

"A little unexpected,” said Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris. “We just met with them a few days before and we thought they would continue. We had a few monitoring reports that were yet to be delivered."

County commission: ‘No confidence’ in DOJ ending oversight of juvenile court

Commissioners and the Mayor say they don’t know why the DOJ pulled out.

The DOJ said Shelby County "Made commendable efforts to improve" the system.

However, Mayor Harris and many commissioners think the oversight should continue, hence the reason for the no confidence vote.

The agreement with DOJ was entered after an investigation found the county’s juvenile justice system had more than 100 deficiencies with widespread discrimination against black children, as well as unsafe conditions.

Mayor Harris has implemented the county’s own oversight.

“We’ve got a countywide juvenile consortium which is an oversight panel of citizens that are going to keep track of what’s going on over there and provide insight,” Mayor Harris said.

County Commissioner Van Turner has faith in Mayor Harris' local oversight but would prefer to have the federal government’s heavy hand looming over the juvenile justice system.

However, he doesn’t think the DOJ will come back.

"You have to try and you have to ask and you have to make sure your request is known and put it on the record,” Turner said.

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