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Task force aims to reduce high number of minority juveniles in jail

11:37 PM, Feb 18, 2012   |    comments
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A task force in Blount County is working to beat the statistics that put a disproportionate number of minority children in the Tennessee justice system.

"I had a child in the system. You don't want your child in that system," said Dorothy Mitchell Kincaid.

Kincaid knows first hand how incarceration impacts children. That's why she's chairing Blount County's Disproportionate Minority Contact or DMC task force.

"We basically want to take our community back and saw we can do this. And our children don't necessarily have to be incarcerated all the time," she said.

Tennessee Juvenile Justice Specialist Ron King says it's a nationwide problem.

Data from the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth shows that black juvenile cases are one and half times more likely to result in confinement than white juveniles and six times more likely to have their cases transferred to adult court.

"There's a whole lot of reasons why kids of color are in the system. You have economic reasons, you have unintended consequences of laws that have developed, and you have kids just making stupid decisions because they're kids," said King.

The task force believes one way to stop this is through education. At a two-day workshop this weekend, they discussed and learned about the roots of racism.

"Nobody is to blame. Everybody needs to work on this together," said Kincaid.

King says there are five other DMC task forces in the state that have seen positive results.

"All of them have shown improvement especially when we're talking about referral to juvenile court as well as transfers to adult court," King said.

Kincaid hopes they can make that happen in Blount County.

Kincaid said at the first portion of the workshop held Friday night, the Director of Alcoa Schools, law enforcement, and faith based leaders all came to participate in the discussion.

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