TN Officials May Balk at Cost of Memphis Juvenile Court Reforms


The federally mandated overhaul of Memphis’ Shelby County Juvenile Court is expected to cost millions — even if the county can avoid a federal lawsuit, reports the Memphis Commercial Appeal. That’s because the proposed changes would create new positions, including full-time juvenile public defenders and a court-based Disproportionate Minority Contact coordinator who would work to reduce the number of black youths brought to court, held in jail, and transferred to adult court.

The court also is revamping how youths are assessed and treated for medical and mental health issues while in lockup. County Commission members may not be willing to pay for the reforms because they haven’t participated in the decisions or been informed about the court’s plans, said commission chairman-elect Mike Ritz. “If, in fact, you expect us to help with a bunch of money, why would you not have included us in the process?” Ritz said. “I thought they were just ignoring us, but sooner or later, they’ve got to ask for our money. And these are tough financial times.” The changes at Juvenile Court are a response to an April report by the U.S. Department of Justice citing systemic problems in the way juveniles accused of crimes in Shelby County are detained, represented, and punished.

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