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Press Release

Justice Department Successfully Closes Its Memorandum Of Agreement With Shelby County, Tennessee

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs

The Department of Justice today announced that it is successfully closing its memorandum of agreement with the Juvenile Court of Memphis and Shelby County and the Shelby County Detention Center. 

Shelby County and the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice entered into the agreement in December of 2012 to address the results of an investigation by the Department into the operations of the County’s juvenile justice system.  The investigation looked into the operation and administration of the County’s juvenile court as well as the conditions of confinement for juveniles held in the County’s Detention Center. 

Over the last six years, Shelby County has implemented a number of significant reforms under the agreement.  To ensure that it protects the constitutional rights of juveniles to receive due process and equal protection under the law, the County has for the first time established and funded a juvenile unit in the public defender’s office that now represents the majority of juveniles who appear before the Juvenile Court.  The County now provides counsel to juveniles at both probation conferences and at court hearings.  The County has also undertaken efforts to ensure that decisions made at different levels of the juvenile justice system are unbiased and guided by objective criteria.  Finally, the County has taken numerous steps to prevent the unnecessary use of force in the Detention Center and to protect juveniles from the risk of suicide. 

“The Department of Justice is committed to protecting the constitutional rights of all juveniles who enter the justice system,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore of the Civil Rights Division.  “Shelby County made commendable efforts to improve its juvenile justice system. The Department is pleased to see Shelby County and its local elected officials embrace and show public commitment to continuing the reforms it has made.” 

The Department of Justice applauds Shelby County’s reform efforts and appreciates the productive partnership that the County has established with the Department over the last six years. 

More information about the Civil Rights Division and the civil rights laws it enforces is available at

Updated October 19, 2018

Press Release Number: 18-1370