Tarrant County commissioners outraged over juvenile justice system audit

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The head of Tarrant County's government is calling for the two appointed juvenile court judges to lose their jobs following a damning audit of the county's juvenile justice system.

The 21-page audit prepared by former Tarrant County Juvenile Services Director Carey Cockerell found that since Judge Alex Kim was elected to the 323rd District Court four years ago, the average daily population and length of stay in the juvenile detention center have doubled, even though referrals have been cut in half.

"The goal should be to get these kids out of detention, and anything else is the games that grown people play, and that's a bunch of bull," said an outraged Commissioner Roy Charles Brooks during Tuesday's Commissioners Court meeting.

It goes on to say that the overcrowding is in part because associate judges Cynthia Terry and Andy Porter either postpone or cancel their hearings.

That has Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley suggesting that judges Terry and Porter lose their jobs.

"I'm wondering whether we should defund the two associate judges because of some of the comments in the report, some of the findings in the report," Judge Whitley said. "The fact that there were no hearings other than just the detention from mid-February to mid-March of this year, which just so happened to be early voting to Election (Day), is very disturbing to me. I mean, we've got a job to do, and they ought to be doing the job."

As judge of the 323rd District Court, Judge Kim oversees the entire juvenile justice system in the county, and he appoints and oversees the associate judges.

Since Judge Kim is elected, the county is powerless in removing him from the bench; such a move can only come at the state level.

Porter is running for judge in Tarrant County Criminal District Court No. 4, facing Sam Williams in the general election.

Terry is running unopposed for judge in the 325th District Court.

Kim is running for re-election in the 323rd, facing Frank Adler in the general election.

Kim, Porter and Terry are all Republicans.

Commissioner Brooks says he believes the overcrowding of the juvenile detention center is rooted in racism.

"It is difficult to imagine that it is accidental that over 90% of the long term incarcerations in our juvenile detention center are either African American or Hispanic," said Brooks.

KRLD has reached out to judges Kim, Terry and Porter for reaction and is waiting to hear back.

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Featured Image Photo Credit: Getty Images