Tennessee juvenile court judge loses adjunct job following damning reports of abuse

A Tennessee judge whose conduct overseeing Rutherford County’s juvenile court caused national outrage lost her job with Middle Tennessee State University, officials confirmed to Nashville Public Radio on Monday. Donna Scott Davenport will no longer teach criminal justice as an adjunct instructor and “is no longer affiliated with the University,” MTSU president Sidney McPhee said in a statement. Davenport’s conduct was the subject of a joint WPLN/ProPublica investigative report that almost immediately begins with a violation of U.N. guidance on juvenile justice. The piece opens with children as young as eight years old being handcuffed and detained for allegedly witnessing a schoolyard fight at Hobgood Elementary School in Murfreesboro in 2016. The U.N. explicitly bars handcuffs from being used on children and only allows for children in court or in transit to be handcuffed if they pose a danger to themselves or others. It only gets worse from there as adult after adult fails the children around them they appear to ultimately target. School personnel do nothing more than cry. Just one police officer admits to removing handcuffs from a child. And an entire team works to bend the law to their whim because some of them misguidedly believe that charges ultimately help children learn, something that has been disproven time and time again. Davenport rules the juvenile justice system with an iron fist and even brags about it on a monthly radio show with WGNS, a station that frequently offers her good press and has stayed suspiciously silent about Davenport since the WPLN/ProPublica piece was published last week. “I’ve locked up one seven-year-old in 13 years, and that was a heartbreak, but eight and nine-year-olds, and older, are very common now,” Davenport says in 2012, showing that exposure therapy works for her most heinous tendencies. God help her if she had to discipline another seven year old, though she could always wait until they reach that eight-year-old threshold to continue denying children basic human rights. It took Davenport five attempts and nine years to pass the bar exam and work her way up in an unjust system. Her own privilege clearly wasn’t enough, as Davenport felt the need to lie about her work experience. She claimed she kicked off her career working for “the feds,” when she worked under a program that only receives federal funding but is not part of the federal government. Around Davenport, clearly sees no issue with her underlings lying about the law, there are culpable and downright malicious actors everywhere. The children traumatized by her style of juvenile justice are charged with “criminal responsibility for conduct of another” — which is absolutely not a law that you can break —  for witness the fight. All 10 children, who are Black, are sent to a juvenile justice center, but only four Black boys charged are jailed and the remaining six Black girls are allowed to go free. It should come as no surprise that Davenport is white and frequently deals in respectability politics meant to oppress the marginalized people her court routinely targets. She complains on her radio show about children misbehaving and parents acting even worse and even instituted a dress code that I don’t even have the wardrobe to adhere to. Her policies extend to the Rutherford County Juvenile Detention Center, where her original nominee to run the facility was arrested on drug charges and hastily replaced by Lynn Duke in 2001. Duke has an opaque system for keeping kids detained and frequently used solitary confinement — defined by the U.N. as torture — until it was barred following a lawsuit settled in 2018. And boy have there been lawsuits against the system over which Davenport presides. In fact, there are nearly 1,450 juveniles eligible to receive payment as part of a massive $11 million class action lawsuit that was settled against the juvenile court system. Left unsaid is the blatant profiteering from locking up so many young people, which you can read all about in the excellent WPLN/ProPublica investigation. Davenport may finally prove too costly for Rutherford County and lose her job there but the damage has already been done to innumerable families, friends, and the community. 

Tennessee juvenile court judge loses adjunct job following damning reports of abuse

A Tennessee judge whose conduct overseeing Rutherford County’s juvenile court caused national outrage lost her job with Middle Tennessee State University, officials confirmed to Nashville Public Radio on Monday. Donna Scott Davenport will no longer teach criminal justice as an adjunct instructor and “is no longer affiliated with the University,” MTSU president Sidney McPhee said in a statement.

Davenport’s conduct was the subject of a joint WPLN/ProPublica investigative report that almost immediately begins with a violation of U.N. guidance on juvenile justice. The piece opens with children as young as eight years old being handcuffed and detained for allegedly witnessing a schoolyard fight at Hobgood Elementary School in Murfreesboro in 2016. The U.N. explicitly bars handcuffs from being used on children and only allows for children in court or in transit to be handcuffed if they pose a danger to themselves or others.

It only gets worse from there as adult after adult fails the children around them they appear to ultimately target. School personnel do nothing more than cry. Just one police officer admits to removing handcuffs from a child. And an entire team works to bend the law to their whim because some of them misguidedly believe that charges ultimately help children learn, something that has been disproven time and time again.

Davenport rules the juvenile justice system with an iron fist and even brags about it on a monthly radio show with WGNS, a station that frequently offers her good press and has stayed suspiciously silent about Davenport since the WPLN/ProPublica piece was published last week.

“I’ve locked up one seven-year-old in 13 years, and that was a heartbreak, but eight and nine-year-olds, and older, are very common now,” Davenport says in 2012, showing that exposure therapy works for her most heinous tendencies. God help her if she had to discipline another seven year old, though she could always wait until they reach that eight-year-old threshold to continue denying children basic human rights.

It took Davenport five attempts and nine years to pass the bar exam and work her way up in an unjust system. Her own privilege clearly wasn’t enough, as Davenport felt the need to lie about her work experience. She claimed she kicked off her career working for “the feds,” when she worked under a program that only receives federal funding but is not part of the federal government.

Around Davenport, clearly sees no issue with her underlings lying about the law, there are culpable and downright malicious actors everywhere. The children traumatized by her style of juvenile justice are charged with “criminal responsibility for conduct of another” — which is absolutely not a law that you can break —  for witness the fight. All 10 children, who are Black, are sent to a juvenile justice center, but only four Black boys charged are jailed and the remaining six Black girls are allowed to go free.

It should come as no surprise that Davenport is white and frequently deals in respectability politics meant to oppress the marginalized people her court routinely targets. She complains on her radio show about children misbehaving and parents acting even worse and even instituted a dress code that I don’t even have the wardrobe to adhere to.

Her policies extend to the Rutherford County Juvenile Detention Center, where her original nominee to run the facility was arrested on drug charges and hastily replaced by Lynn Duke in 2001. Duke has an opaque system for keeping kids detained and frequently used solitary confinement — defined by the U.N. as torture — until it was barred following a lawsuit settled in 2018.

And boy have there been lawsuits against the system over which Davenport presides. In fact, there are nearly 1,450 juveniles eligible to receive payment as part of a massive $11 million class action lawsuit that was settled against the juvenile court system.

Left unsaid is the blatant profiteering from locking up so many young people, which you can read all about in the excellent WPLN/ProPublica investigation. Davenport may finally prove too costly for Rutherford County and lose her job there but the damage has already been done to innumerable families, friends, and the community.