Reduce Youth Transfer to Adult Court

Shelby County District Attorney General

As Nelson Mandela stated, “There can be no keener revelation of a society's soul than the way in which it treats its children.” Shelby County has a history of treating its children, especially its Black and Brown youth, harshly, with a bent towards punishment and incarceration, transferring significantly more of our young people to the adult system than any other county in Tennessee.

But we as a community say "No more." Such transfers are inappropriate and counter to the research which shows that age-appropriate, restorative, and community-based approaches are more effective than incarceration.

Science tells us that youth do not have fully-developed decision-making skills and lack requisite impulse control and are more able to be rehabilitated than adults. Research tells us that detention and incarceration of our youth leads to increases in youth crime and violence within a community. Our faith traditions, varied as they are, tell us that everyone is redeemable and has value.

I stand with MICAH, asking that you, as our Shelby County District Attorney General, stop transferring accused youth to be tried in adult court. I am calling on your office to instead seek and prioritize more restorative and holistic alternatives--rehabilitative options that take into account adolescent development. We are not prepared to throw away our young people before they have a chance to choose a better path.

Petition by
Ayanna Watkins
Memphis, Tennessee

To: Shelby County District Attorney General
From: [Your Name]

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