JACKSON, Miss.—Hinds County Youth Court Judge Carlyn Hicks’ first juvenile-delinquency case in July 2020 involved a 12-year-old girl who came into her courtroom in shackles that summer. “She sat at the witness table in front of the bench alone,” Hicks recalled as she addressed a captive audience at an event held on Nov. 17, 2022, at the Henley-Young-Patton Juvenile Justice Center.
“She looked up at me with fear in her eyes and uncertainty. Her attorney was present, but his table was several feet away from her to my right,” Hicks said during her “2022 State of the Child in Hinds County” report.
“Her charge was disturbing the family peace; the fact was that she poured grease on the kitchen floor, and she missed the bus,” the judge continued. “This child had the police called on her for this. They arrested her. They put her in the back of the police car. She was booked to the detention center for disturbing the family peace.”
The youth court judge, who ran unopposed for the position during the Nov. 8, 2022, general election, added, “The DYS (Division of Youth Services) counselor began to make recommendations in court, and I soon realized that they had not spoken to that child very much.”
The Division of Youth Services, which is under the Mississippi Department of Human Services, focuses on juvenile-delinquency cases and provides counseling, probation, and supervision services at home and education, rehabilitation, and treatment services to children committed to institutional care. John Davis, the agency’s executive director from 2016 to 2019, pleaded guilty in September to federal and state charges relating to the misuse of funds at the agency.
Hicks said Thursday that the girl who appeared before her two years before lived with her aunt, who regularly used the threat of arrest to intimidate her. “As time went on, we would discover the young girl had been subjected to horrendous child abuse at the hands of her aunt whom she lived with,” the judge said. “The threat of calling the police had been used as a source of fear, trauma, and—most importantly—control. She
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