She Said It's "God's Mission" To Incarcerate Elementary School Children

Zain Murdock
October 18, 2021

In 2016, 11 Black Tennessee elementary school children found in a blurry recording watching a school fight were arrested for “criminal responsibility for conduct of another,” a crime that doesn’t even exist! An 8-year-old was the youngest arrested, and the boys actually fighting were five and six.

But they were only 11 out of the 11,797 children caught in Rutherford County’s “filter system.”

With this system, when police arrest a child, jail staff get to decide who’s released, based on whether or not the jailer believes they’re a “TRUE threat.” Which is why the average of 5% of children being referred to juvenile court each year jumped to 48%!

Judge Donna Davenport said her work was “God’s mission,” stating the importance of “consequences” for all children. Consequences like holding a child in jail for 2-10 days for “cussing.” But what happened when people found out?

NAACP leadership requested a federal civil rights investigation, lawmakers condemned Rutherford’s juvenile punishment system, and the University of Tennessee dropped Davenport as an adjunct professor. But we need to go further.

Authorities anywhere, and especially in places like Rutherford, clearly aren’t interested in rehabilitating or uplifting Black children. But we can. Davenport needs to be completely unseated, the detention center’s contracts need to be broken, and this entire system itself needs to go. It’s what our children deserve.

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