Juvenile Justice

A Tennessee County Agrees to Grant New Protections to Accused Juveniles in Template for Reform

Tennessee’s Shelby County has agreed to reform its justice system in a ground-breaking pact with the U.S. Justice Department.

A federal investigation had highlighted the problems there, the New York Times reports. Black teens in the county, which includes Memphis, were twice as likely as white teens to be detained, and were transferred to adult criminal court for low-level offenses far more often than whites. In addition, juveniles were subjected to unnecessary restraints, were not advised of their Miranda rights, and were held in detention on weekends and holidays because no probable cause hearings were held.

According to the Times, the new agreement (PDF) signed on Monday is said to be the first of its kind in the nation, signaling a new approach to juvenile justice that could serve as a template elsewhere.

Among the agreed-upon reforms: Teens will now be advised of their Miranda rights, they will get a probable cause hearing on detention within 48 hours, and will get increased help from specially trained public defenders. Three federally appointed monitors will report on the county’s progress.

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