An extra set of eyes may be monitoring the troubled Shelby County Juvenile Court system. Commissioner Henri Brooks says she doesn't trust the court judge and administrator to make the necessary reforms as mandated by the Department of Justice.
Citizen monitors will observe the court, even though the Department of Justice will send two of its own monitors to observe if juvenile court is getting any better. While it may sound like a duplication of efforts, Brooks believes it is necessary.
Commissioner Brooks is the one who pushed the Justice Department to investigate the county's juvenile court. That investigation found that black teenagers were twice as likely to be detained and sent to adult criminal court for minor infractions as white teenagers.
Since that scathing report came out almost a year ago, Juvenile Court entered an agreement with the federal government to make reforms to avoid a law suit.
The court administrator told FOX13 News that most of the reforms are moving ahead of schedule, but Commissioner Brooks is still very skeptical. So, she will recruit citizen monitors to observe how African American defendants are being treated in juvenile court.
"I want citizens to step up to the plate and agree to go on a rotating basis to go to juvenile court and report back," says Brooks.
The administrator of the Shelby County Juvenile Court says the court is meeting all of it thresholds for reform. He fears "citizen monitors" will interfere with the official monitors from the Department of Justice who will visit Shelby County a couple of times a year for about 3 years to document the court's progress.
Brooks will be holding a community meeting to discuss this issue on Thursday night, Feb. 28, at Memphis City Schools board auditorium from 5-8 p.m.