MEMPHIS, Tenn. — U.S. Attorney Edward Stanton III was in Memphis to talk about something that’s on everyone’s mind: youth violence.
He says court summons instead of jail time aren’t the cause of an uptick in violence, but admits the justice system needs to make serious changes.
“I want to be clear that Smart on Crime is not a hug-a-thug policy or program,” he said.
Stanton says it’s time for a change in the justice system because Memphis, and the rest of Shelby County can’t arrest their way out of violence. He argued mass incarceration has never made our streets safer.
“We need to understand that one size does not fit all. What we may have tried 15, 20 years ago or when I was a youth, those things may not be working,” he said.
Stanton says this is especially true with kids today. He says the Memphis streets he grew up on are much more dangerous, and kids are getting sucked into crime at a much younger age.
“We didn’t have to worry about drugs or gangs or bullets flying over our heads. I think what we are doing today is a great start,” he said.
He said Thursday’s Justice Reform Conference shows the community wants to help bring change to the streets. And he says this is exactly where change starts.
Stanton brushed off suggestions the Department of Justice mandate that gives most kids court summons instead of jail time is leading to more violent crime. He says this mandate protects kids from a potentially racially biased system.
“We want to be vigilant in holding individuals accountable but the constitution prevails and safeguards must be in place before doing those things,” he said.
These messages of community and coming together to tackle the problem are exactly what everyone else in leadership roles are saying, but Memphians have said time and again, enough with the talk, let’s see some action.