1 month ago
More youth in Shelby County, Tenn., are being turned in to authorities by their families
The problem, says Shelby County court services director Jerry Manness, is that children aren't afraid of much anymore.
“This is not the ‘scared straight’ era,” he says.
Manness, a 41-year veteran of the Memphis court system is responding to a recent report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which shows that of nearly 10,000 juveniles arrested in 2011, a third were turned in by caregivers or family members. According to the Casey report, "Detention in Shelby County," the threat of arrest is often used by families to sanction youth for violating orders of a court, to "arrange for services" for youth and family and to "get kids' attention." Last year, 900 minors were arrested for domestic violence, with an additional 665 charged with some form of disorderly conduct.
"We get children a lot of times for domestic conduct,” Manness explains. “Parents ‘get into it’ with their children and then will call the police who are drawn into a domestic violence situation. A lot of single parents work, they’re busy and by the time police are called to the home, there’s been an escalation of something.”
Manness says that parents and caregivers shouldn't be using arrest as a means to discipline children for disruptive behavior, but having parents and family members call the police on their children isn’t the only issue the local system is facing. With the year drawing to a close, that same system is under heavy scrutiny from the public as well as from the U.S. Department of Justice and the Casey Foundation for a pattern of unequal treatment of minority youths. At a public hearing in Memphis several months ago, one African American parent went so far as to call the system a “plantation.”
Gail D. Mumford is a senior associate at the Casey Foundation’s Juvenile Justice Strategy Group in Baltimore.