Youth Court: Decrease in Cases

Compared to this same time last year, records show that there's been almost a 30% decrease in the number of crimes filed in Lauderdale County Youth Court. By March 2013, 118 cases had been filed. So far this year, 81 cases have. Judge Frank Coleman says there are likely two reasons for the decline.

(1.) Not as many youth are being arrested in Lauderdale County.

(2.) Because of the nature of some crimes, youthful offenders are being charged as adults and their cases are not being handled in youth court.

As for youth court cases, Judge Coleman says the court is facing a major challenge from officials at Mississippi's training school.

"This is what's so ironic about it, if they on the application see where the child is a violent child, they'll send you back a notice saying that they refuse to take the child," says Coleman. "I said, 'Well, I thought that's what the training schools were for, to send the bad of the bad,' but they don't want to deal with'em."

According to Coleman, the problem comes down to dollars and cents, or in other words, budget cuts!
In recent years he says funding cuts have reduced the number of beds at Mississippi's training school from 350 to 50.

"We get orders from the training school to not send anymore students to the training school because we're full," says Coleman. "The kids that are being transferred to adult court, instead of going actually to prison, many have got 10 felonies. If they were an adult they'd be looking at 60 to 80 years in the penitentiary, but instead they get three years with 2 or 2 1/2 years suspended. They serve 90 days, and they turn them a loose on probation or parole because the penitentiaries are full, and they don't want to put young offenders in the penitentiary anyway with the older offenders."

As the legislative session continues, Judge Coleman is urging state legislators to allot more funding for programs that can help deter youth crimes.