MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A Tennessee county has requested an end to federal oversight of its juvenile court system.

In a letter dated June 9, Shelby County officials cited progress in meeting standards set by the Department of Justice. The DOJ began oversight in 2012 after a report found failings in the system, including discrimination, unsafe confinement conditions and lack of due process, The Commercial Appeal reported (http://memne.ws/2rFLzYI) .

The letter was signed by Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell, Juvenile Court Judge Dan Michael and Shelby County Sheriff Bill Oldham. The eight-page letter stated the county has spent millions on personnel and initiatives including upgraded training and auditing, along with a contract to provide around-the-clock medical care. The letter also stated that a facilities assessment is in progress to ascertain whether to renovate the current juvenile court facility or build a new one.

“Thousands of hours and millions of dollars have been spent with the DOJ’s attorneys and monitors in working through all aspects of the (Justice Department agreement). This work has created a road map for all other juvenile courts in the United States,” the letter stated.

Josh Spickler, the executive director of local advocacy group Just City, pushed back on the officials’ account, saying that independent reports do not support the county’s narrative.

“These independent eyes and ears are nowhere near satisfied,” Spickler said. “I don’t imagine the letter is going to change our minds. The letter is a little tone deaf.”

The Justice Department has released two new reports on the county’s juvenile justice reform. One says the county has “maintained substantial compliance” for more than a year on several sections of the oversight agreement with the DOJ, including notice of charges, treatment of witnesses, bond setting guidelines and recordings of juvenile delinquency hearings.


Information from: The Commercial Appeal, http://www.commercialappeal.com

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