News and Press Releases

Department Of Justice Welcomes Local Discussion Of Its Investigative Findings On The Juvenile Court Of Memphis And Shelby County

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 12, 2012
Memphis, TN – On April 26, 2012, the Department of Justice announced the results of its
investigation of the Juvenile Court of Memphis and Shelby County and the Shelby County
Juvenile Detention Center. The Department of Justice now invites community members to
discuss the measures necessary to improve the court’s provision of services to children appearing
on delinquency matters. We have invited community stakeholders working on issues of due
process, equal protection, and juvenile justice to a meeting to share their ideas for reform. We
also welcome other community members to attend and offer suggestions.

During the investigation, the Justice Department found that the juvenile court fails to provide
constitutionally required due process to all children appearing for delinquency proceedings, that
the court’s administration of juvenile justice discriminates against African-American children,
and that its detention center violates the substantive due process rights of detained youth by not
providing them with reasonably safe conditions of confinement. The investigation, opened in
August 2009, was conducted pursuant to the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of
1994 and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Throughout the comprehensive investigative process, the juvenile court was fully cooperative
with the Department of Justice. Judge Curtis Person and his staff were consistently helpful and
professional throughout the process. Indeed, Judge Person did not await the conclusion of our
investigation to initiate reforms. Judge Person and his staff have demonstrated a desire to
continue in a collaborative manner to remedy the deficiencies within the juvenile court and its
detention center.

Notwithstanding the progress we have observed in a number of areas, we found serious and
systemic failures in the juvenile court system in Memphis and Shelby County that violate the
constitutional rights of children appearing before the court.

The Justice Department found a pattern or practice of unconstitutional conduct in several areas,
including:
  • Failure to provide timely and adequate notice of charges to children appearing on
    delinquency proceedings;
  • Failure to protect youth from self-incrimination during probation conferences;
  • Failure to hold timely probable cause hearings for youth arrested without a
    warrant;
  • Failure to provide adequate due process protections for children before
    transferring them to the adult criminal court;
  • Harsher treatment of African-American children; and
  • Failure to adequately protect detained youth from self-harm and unnecessary and
    excessive restraints.


The meeting offers interested community members the opportunity to discuss the Department of
Justice findings and to contribute suggestions for addressing the violations found during the
investigation. The meeting will occur:

Thursday, June 21, 2012, at 5:00 p.m.
Memphis City Schools, Francis E. Coe Administration Building - Auditorium
2597 Avery Avenue, Memphis, TN 38112

For more information on the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, please visit
www.justice.gov/crt. If you would like to provide information to the Civil Rights Division
pertinent to this investigation, please email Community.ShelbyCounty@usdoj.gov.

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