Violent Juveniles On Mid-South Streets

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(Memphis) Beverly Shelley never thought teen violence would impact her family.

“We live in a beautiful country neighborhood and I would have never dreamed that the decisions of teenagers would have broken my family,” said Shelley.

But Oct. 4, 2013, her whole life changed.

Her husband was shot and killed when police say three teens planned and carried out a robbery in the Berclair neighborhood where he was working.

“They attended the same school system that I worked for,” said Shelley.

Beyond the shock of losing her husband, Beverly says she was even more shocked to learn about the teen suspects histories.  

They had violent records each accused of assault and sexual assault.

Yet they were free and showing off their illegal behavior.

“On Facebook, just posing with guns and gang signs,” said Shelley about the teens.

They aren't the only teens with violent felonies on their records but on the streets.

News Channel 3 wanted to know why they weren’t locked up.

“The court itself has a goal of rehabilitating all children and they are children up until they are 18 they are children,” said former Juvenile Court judge Claudia Haltom.

Haltom was a juvenile court judge for 17 years.

She retired in 2010, but dealt with children with violent histories.

“I was shocked. I was shocked and disturbed and concerned with where these children would end up and what victims they would have,” said Haltom.

Judges determine a juvenile’s fate. But it was frustrating for Haltom.

“The concern though has been that the system that`s been created, where the judges have limited options really ties the hands of the court,” said Haltom.

For the violent juveniles in court, the options are very limited. Put them in the custody of the Department of Children Services, which could then send the teen criminals to youth development centers-- which are similar to jail.

But typically after nine or months, DCS moves the teens to group or foster homes.

The only other option is transferring the case to 201 Poplar to be tried as an adult.

“This young person is transferred and spends ten years in prison and at age 25, what we have is a very angry young man coming out of a prison whom has had no rehabilitation,” said Haltom.

Haltom says the state wants to reunite kids with their families. And that’s how many violent teens, end up back on the street.

“I think the juvenile court is doing everything it can within the rules given to them but these are state decisions. Allowing Shelby County to rehabilitate the youth who commit crimes here would make a difference,” added Haltom.

Finding out just how many teens with violent records are on the streets iIs hard to put a finger on.

Their records are protected because they're underage.

But Beverly wants to know, who is protecting the public?

“It's not fair for the rest of us to suffer because you are protecting the rights of known criminals,” said Shelley.

It’s been one month since Shelley’s husband was killed.

She is determined to take her story to Nashville, even Washington if she has to, to see change.

17 comments

  • Karen Ellis

    This city is being taken over by young hooligans, some not even teenagers yet, and I’m ready to get tough. It’s obvious their parents aren’t doing their jobs. I am a senior citizen, and every time I leave the house, I’m nervous. And I’m with 1midtownmike about 201 Poplar: let ’em go there for trial. Maybe I can go shopping without worrying about what young thugs might be lurking. We have to get these criminals locked up or in some kind of program where they can’t prey on us.

    • MS TOO COLD

      Some of these teenagers need to be tried as an adult. So many of their criminal files are way out of control and the parents can’t handle the stress of their behavior. Stop wasting tax payers money on these programs that do not work. The same criminals are allowed to get out of jail and commit the same crimes and get away with it. Something needs to be done regarding the crime rate in Memphis. The police are burned out and can’t keep up with the rate that crime is growing. Director Armstrong, you are in my prayers with the rate crime is growing in Memphis.

  • Eelo Fudpucker

    Black teenagers continue to show on a daily basis why they are the most violent segment of our society.
    Until the NAACP and other black organizations address the situation it will never change.
    No most black organizations live for the occasional white person killing a supposed unarmed black child so they can fan the flames of racism here in Memphis.and around the country.
    Soooooo glad I left Memphis years ago it has become a festering wound on the state of Tennessee

  • mission

    And to think that certain people complain how the police are profiling and using too much force in dealing with the black thugs. When you see a 14 year old from Memphis attacking a police office in New Mexico, that you should tell you what kind of people they are dealing with.

  • Daddy

    Ask the teenagers in Tipton county how well their thug lifestyle will last. If Memphis police were like the ones in Tipton county, Memphis would
    Not have to many problems. MPD bosses need to let their workers put some knots on thugs heads to get a point across

  • Curt

    These young hoods do not deserve an once of leiniency. On top of that, their parents should also be held responsible and I dont care if they are single and work 2 jobs. Your child should come first and they are not blind to their kids thug lifestyle.

  • sdebar

    If you think rehabilitation will work you have to start with the first time they commit a crime, Giving them a slap on the wrist 5 or 6 times only allows them to move on to worse criminal acts, and no amount of rehabilitation now is going to make a difference. Ms Haltom you already have an angry young man on your hands. These young men should be tried as adults…they have had enough slaps on the wrist, it’s now time to pay the consequences for the crimes they committed in cold blood!

  • american born muslim

    There has been no greater violence or mayhem caused throughout history caused by any single ethnic group than the mayhem caused by Caucasians. That is a proven historical fact. The blantant foolishness and racism on this fourm bears that out. A bunch of sorry pathetic cowards looking for scapegoats. The same fools who supported Zimmerman

    • TPA

      BTW muslim,,muslims have killed more people in history than any other people. muslims have fought with every religion and race there is…..seems like you don’t get along with people very well and you talk about racism???please,,you guys are blatant racists not to mention religious dictators.

  • Thomas H. Evans

    Actually, until our judicial systems across this country, not just in Memphis (and stop blaming everything on Herenton, he doesn’t write the law) catch up with the times, how can anything change ? We are still working with the same rules we were working with when juvenile crime was a child stealing a bicycle or a candy bar; we have long since moved beyond that, but our laws have not. I am with the person or person’s who say it is time to get just as tough with these teens as they have gotten with us. I get a little tired of these parents getting in front of the camera telling lies about “he’s a good boy, never been in trouble,” yet they have a rap sheet a mile long already. I think if they commit an adult crime, then they should be placed in 201 in the juvenile holding area until they go before a judge over there who will decide if they should be transferred to juvenile court, not the way it’s done now. Perhaps if they knew they would start out at 201 Poplar when terrorizing our communities maybe they would think twice, just maybe. If we separate these street thugs from some of our juveniles being held in juvenile lock up I think we may have a better chance at some kind of rehab program. The way we do things now will not change a thing.

  • Bob Draughon

    I would be ashamed if I had been a Juvenile Judge for 17 years and only saw things get worse. We elect individuals to manage their area or responsibility and not to be a caretaker doing a poor job of what has been done in the past.

    The situation of the city, county, state and country is largely due to the attitudes of people in responsible positions that excuse themselves from taking positive action and hide behind excuses similar to those of Judge Halton as quoted in this WREG article of 11/18/2013 by Candace McGowan.

    Judge Halton speaks of the “goal of rehabilitating all children and they are children up until they are 18”. This is not the Juvenile Court’s only goal and certainly not their only responsibility. Any Executive is responsible to establish priorities for their area that will improve operations and achieve their goals. One of a Judge’s main goals and responsibilities to the Public is the maintenance of the integrity of the Judicial System. Basically the quotes of Judge Halton inform us that she abdicated her duties and responsibilities

    She stated that she was “shocked and disturbed” as to the future of the violent juveniles and to their victimization of the public. Judge Halton blames the current system that limits Judges’ options and allows the Department of Children Services to override the verdict of the Juvenile Court.

    If the System is broken; then fix it. What did she do in her 17 years to improve the system? The Adult Judicial system follows the verdict of the Judge and/or Jury.

    If the sentence for conviction of the offense would extend beyond the juvenile’s 18th birthday, then the juvenile should be tried as an adult.

    Halton’s excuse, for not treating these violent juveniles as adults, because that individual will come out of prison at age 25 angry and with no rehabilitation, is further proof of a broken system. It certainly is not a reason for processing as juveniles and then allowing Department of Children Services, without Court approval, to move these individuals into group or foster homes after typically only nine months of incarceration.

    Haltom says the state wants to reunite kids with their families. And that’s how many violent teens, end up back on the street. Well! What about the families that are no longer united because these juvenile villains have murdered a member of their family?

    “I think the juvenile court is doing everything it can within the rules given to them but these are state decisions. Allowing Shelby County to rehabilitate the youth who commit crimes here would make a difference,” added Haltom.

    “Finding out just how many teens with violent records are on the streets is hard to put a finger on, as, their records are protected because they’re underage.”

    The last two paragraphs/quotes are indicative of the prevailing “nothing can be done to improve the system” attitude that has brought the violent juvenile problem to its’ current state. Statistics can be obtained/developed without infringement on individual privacy and changes can be made to the “broken” system if people will get off their “one spot” and do what they were elected/hired to do.

    It is absolutely shameful and a pitiful reflection on every responsible citizen that Memphis and Shelby County has descended to its’ current state.

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