Support DOJ Oversight of the Juvenile Court of Memphis and Shelby County

Attorney General Merrick Garland, United States Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division

In 2012, the DOJ (Department of Justice) issued a report stating that the Juvenile Court of Memphis and Shelby County (JCMSC) “fails to provide constitutionally required due process to children of all races. We must hold the youth legal system to the highest standards, for they are accountable for our most vulnerable. We cannot choose to stay ignorant, to hide our faces as our youth, particularly our Black youth, are being locked up at a staggering rate. We know better and we must do better."

Sign this petition to stand with the Countywide Juvenile Justice Consortium and the Shelby County Board of Commissioners in asking that the Department of Justice return to investigate, monitor, and oversee the Juvenile Court of Memphis and Shelby County in its administration of youth justice within our community.


Petition by
Meggan Kiel
Memphis, Tennessee

To: Attorney General Merrick Garland, United States Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division
From: [Your Name]

As MICAH, Memphis Interfaith Coalition for Action and Hope, seeks a more just and equitable Shelby County, it is impossible to do so without looking at the staggering statistics of our criminal legal system – and nowhere is that more obvious than in the youth legal system. In 2012, the DOJ (Department of Justice) issued a report stating that the Juvenile Court of Memphis and Shelby County (JCMSC) “fails to provide constitutionally required due process to children of all races. In addition, we find that JCMSC’s administration of justice discriminates against Black children. Further, we find that JCMSC violates the substantive due process rights of detained youth by not providing them with reasonably safe conditions of confinement. We have reasonable cause to believe that JCMSC fails to ensure due process for all children appearing for delinquency proceedings.”

Following the investigation and report, JCMSC, Shelby County, and the DOJ entered into a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) which set forth steps to begin to address the injustices outlined in the DOJ report, particularly in three areas: Due Process, DMC and Equal Protection, and Protection from Harm: Detention Facility. The MOA provided for extensive oversight and monitoring.

In 2018, despite objections from local organizations and concerned citizens (https://drive.google.com/file/d/1ONTFfbCmP17GvJPbAhhM7yWilni9skYV/view?usp=sharing), the DOJ oversight ended despite many objections from concerned citizens and public officials. The DOJ’s Due Process Monitor, Sandra Simkins, issued her final report stating, “The abrupt termination of oversight by the United States Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division (DOJ) on October 19, 2018 failed to recognize that Juvenile Court has actively resisted compliance with the word and the spirit of the Agreement and is likely to result in the Court reverting to prior practices.”

The Countywide Juvenile Justice Consortium (CJJC) has been working to ensure that the JCMSC and Shelby County not only continue to work towards compliance, but also to ensure the Court does not revert to prior practices. Without transparency, without current, up-to-date data and information, without full access to the Court and other offices involved in Shelby County’s youth legal system, there is no oversight – and no accountability. The statistics and reports from youth and family members are alarming. We continue transferring the highest number of youth to the adult system in the state. We continue to detain youth at a high rate. And the disproportionate minority contact and outcomes still suggest that nothing has changed.

We must hold the youth legal system to the highest standards, for they are accountable for our most vulnerable. We cannot choose to stay ignorant, to hide our faces as our youth, particularly our Black youth, are being locked up at a staggering rate. We know better and we must do better.

Because of this, we, the below-signed individuals and organizations, stand with the Countywide Juvenile Justice Consortium and the Shelby County Board of Commissioners in asking that the Department of Justice return to investigate, monitor, and oversee the Juvenile Court of Memphis and Shelby County in its administration of juvenile justice within our community.