The newest reports on equal protection of children at Shelby County Juvenile Court find that Black children continue to be targeted in the court system years after an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice to make change, according to The Commercial Appeal.
This should come as no surprise considering the racist history of Shelby County.
Historically, this was the home of large cotton plantations that used enslaved Blacks to cultivate the land. With an overwhelming number of enslaved Blacks, Memphis developed as a major cotton market. After the Civil War, many Blacks were forced into sharecropping and County leaders and residents raised barriers to voter registration, imposed Jim Crow laws and committed many other acts of terrorism. Memphis is the city that ran Ida B. Wells, S.B. Fuller and many other freedom loving Blacks out of town.
Fast forward back to modern times.
The Commercial Appeal headline said in the headline that “disparate treatment of black youth continues at Shelby County Juvenile Court” but the report suggest something even more sinister. It appears that the youth are being targeted.
According to the Commercial Appeal:
The Department of Justice first released a report about the court on April 26, 2012, finding discrimination against African-American children, unsafe confinement conditions and failures to provide due process to youth appearing for proceedings.
According to an assessment study dated July 1 and recently posted to the court’s website, many of the issues that led to the agreement with the DOJ have continued to be present over the last 47 months. The court has “taken ownership and has made strides” but black youth are still treated differently and disproportionate contact with minority children remains a problem for the court, according to the study.
“Continued evidence also suggests that race still impacts decision-making even after factors such as the severity of the crime are taken into consideration,” the study found.
The court has shown a greater commitment to address disproportionate minority contact, wrote Michael Leiber, a professor of criminology at the University of South Florida, in his latest report.