For years, a suburban county near Nashville, Tennessee, illegally locked children up and used bogus charges to justify this in at least one instance, according to one Explosion ProPublica The investigation was published Friday, as part of a system that sent children under the age of seven to prison.
According to ProPublica, Rutherford County, Tennessee used what county officials called a “filter system” starting in 2008, which left it to the discretion of jailers to decide whether a child should be arrested and taken into juvenile custody. Must be taken to the center, although Tennessee law only allows children to be held in specific circumstances.
Under the direction of Judge Donna Scott Davenport—the county’s only juvenile court judge—the county’s policy is for all children who have been charged with a crime to be processed at a detention center, either by their parents. arrested or released by
In a 2016 incident that sparked outrage, the policies were used to arrest 11 elementary school children — all black — six were handcuffed and four were jailed after processing.
For allegedly watching a five-year-old, a six-year-old, and an older boy scuffle, the children were charged with “criminal responsibility for another’s conduct”—a crime that does not exist in Tennessee law.
The result was a class-action lawsuit against Rutherford County, which was settled in 2017 when the county agreed to pay a combined $397,500 to 11 children, while a separate class-action lawsuit overturned the county’s “filter system”. terminated.
According to ProPublica, the officer signing charges of “criminal responsibility for another’s conduct” was suspended for three days while the head of the juvenile detention facility and Davenport remain at their jobs, reportedly from other local authorities. for review of officials.
48%. This is the percentage of children jailed in the county since cases were referred to juvenile court in 2014—the most recent year of data available. This number was by far the highest of any county in Tennessee and nearly 10 times the state average of 5%.
According to ProPublica, a position she has held since 2000, Davenport has taken a harsh stance with teens during her tenure. The judge exercises immense power over the local juvenile justice system, appoints all magistrates and approves policies. detention center. Davenport also appears in a monthly segment on a local radio station, in which she claims that children are now behaving worse than ever before. Davenport says she believes she is on “God’s mission” to discipline children in the community, sometimes referring to herself as “the mother of the county”, according to ProPublica. . Her “process” requires all children who are charged with a crime to be sent to a detention center and the facility’s “filter system”, allowing jailers to decide As to who is to be released, it is estimated that around 1,500 children have been illegally jailed in Rutherford. County during his time as a judge. County officials have also said in meetings that they view the 64-bed detention facility as a profit center, as it has contracts with 39 other counties and the US Marshals Service to hold child detainees, reportedly At a cost of $175 per person per day. Davenport either did not respond to requests for comment from ProPublica or Businesshala.
“Detention in our facilities is not a picnic. It shouldn’t happen. It’s the result of an action,” Davenport said during one of his radio segments.
The ProPublica piece on Friday drew widespread condemnation of the juvenile justice system in Rutherford County, Tennessee. “This is wrong on so many levels,” Tennessee Senate Minority Leader Jeff Yarbrough (D) said on Twitter, “the story about this nightmare deserves your time and attention today.”