Tennessee judge illegally jailed Black children using fake law, report says

RUTHERFORD CO., Tenn. (WKRN) – A judge in Tennessee illegally detained children at a rate nearly 10 times higher than the state average – even though no crime was committed, according to a report from WPLN at Propublica.

Judge Donna Scott Davenport began a policy that all children charged with crimes would be processed at the detention center, the report said. In 2016, 11 young children at Black elementary school were incarcerated and or detained after allegedly witnessing a fight between 5 and 6 years old.

The alleged violation is “criminal responsibility for the conduct of others” – a fake law.

“There needs to be something to do with everyone involved here,” Rep. Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville). “My understanding is that they made a law that wasn’t in the books to make that happen.”

Davenport, Rutherford County’s sole Juvenile judge, is also facing investigation into a “filter system” that allows prison staff to determine which children to hold.

Under the filter system, police will take children they arrest straight to jail, where staff can decide to hold them or not until their detention hearing, which can take several days, the report found. Children who do something as minor as skipping school can be seen behind bars.

The system allegedly allowed the detention center to detain children whom staff described as “uncontrollable,” defined as “a REAL threat.” However, there is no sense, what is really meant by “a REAL threat.”

“That was horrible abuse of power,” Johnson said. “We have the Administrative Office of the Courts, I believe they should take action and investigate.”

“You can’t make the law,” said James McCarroll Jr., Senior Pastor of First Baptist Murfreesboro. The church held its first community meeting, following the arrest in 2016.

“We have a responsibility to all our citizens to give them a system that looks forward to them, that allows them to not only have a constitutional right but have people mandated to exercise that constitutional right with hearts that ensure that people are in the best state and space their lives can have, ”McCarroll said.

Several Rutherford County commissioners said, because of the pending trial, they could not comment.

In 2014, 48% of cases resulted in children being incarcerated under Judge Davenport’s watch. The statewide average at the time was 5%, the report found.

“We allow kids to fall into cracks in all different ways and this is just another way we’ve discovered where [Tennessee’s Dept. of Children’s Services] the ball fell and they need to carefully review these programs to make sure they comply with our laws, ”Johnson said.

In 2016, lawmakers called for a federal investigation into the arrest and detention of children at Black elementary schools in Rutherford County. Representative John Ray Clemmons (D-Nashville), who was among lawmakers in 2016, released the following statement this week:

“As I said in 2016, there is no reasonable justification for any of this in our society. Both the state and the province have clearly failed children and families, mainly Black individuals, at this and not. countless other ways.This has been remarkably true throughout American history in our legal and penal system, and it is finally time to re-examine the structural framework that allows such injustices and inequities. justice.Those of us who are trusted by the public have a duty to correct the multi-layered legal and administrative issues that facilitate this kind of unchecked barbarism.Viewing ourselves in the mirror as manufacturers of decision within a inherently flawed system, we must admit that we have failed so much in too long.

As a lawyer, I am limited in sharing my personal opinion with standing judges, but these individuals, through their own actions and acceptance, have proven themselves completely unqualified for important positions they currently hold. “

In a settled lawsuit in 2017, Rutherford County agreed to pay $ 397,500 to 11 children. The officer who signed off on the charges was suspended for just three days.

“It’s a horror show that’s simple and straightforward, abusive and it doesn’t resemble the law,” Sen said. Jeff Yarbro (D-Nashville).

As of Monday afternoon, Governor Bill Lee, House Speaker Cameron Sexton, and Lt. Governor Randy McNally, all Republican, did not respond to a request for comment on whether the legislature should take up this issue at the next regular legislative session.

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