Juvenile Court Racial Bias Not a Myth
Thomas, Wendi C, The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN)
At nearly every turn, black children are treated more harshly than white children by Juvenile Court simply because they're black.
This isn't an opinion. This isn't a suspicion. The U.S. Department of Justice has declared this to be fact.
We know this to be true thanks to the dogged efforts of Shelby County Commissioner Henri Brooks. It was her 2007 complaint that spurred the recent investigation by the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division.
Brooks, a former state representative, admits that her choice of words often isn't optimal and her approach tends to grate.
And Brooks, who is black, has drawn the ire of some white county commissioners, who allow themselves to be distracted by her style, thus ignoring the substance of what she's said.
But when it comes to disparate treatment at Juvenile Court, Brooks was right.
Don't expect her critics to apologize. She surely doesn't.
The former Juvenile Court employee can declare victory in this battle, but the war is far from over.
"I'm concerned about the reforms . especially in light of the fact that Judge Person has said he doesn't agree with the Justice Department's findings," Brooks said Wednesday.
"If he doesn't agree with those findings, that kind of says to me that he's not going to be inclined to put any reforms in place."
Unfortunately, yet again, Brooks' concerns are valid.
"It's a subjective finding," Judge Curtis Person said late last month when the report was released.
Except it wasn't subjective at all. Read the 66-page report, examine the statistical analysis and the proof is crystal clear.
"I don't think race enters into the decision-making in Juvenile Court," he has said.
Except the Justice Department has concluded that unequivocally, it does.
"This disproportionate impact cannot be explained by factors other than race," the Justice Department's report read.
"I deplore and will not tolerate discrimination of any kind," Person told me Wednesday and I believe that he believes that is true.
Person is well-respected, conscientious and exceedingly amiable - and that actually makes the situation far more frightening. …