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Missouri family court, DOJ reach deal over racial inequities

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An exterior photograph of the Department of Justice building in Washington D.C.

CLAYTON, Mo. (AP) – St. Louis County’s family court and the U.S. government have reached a deal meant to resolve allegations that black youth are treated more harshly than whites and that juveniles often are deprived of constitutional rights.

Wednesday’s announcement came after more than a year of bargaining to resolve what the U.S. Department of Justice called its “findings of serious and systemic violations of juvenile due process and equal protection rights.”

The agreement requires the court to double the number of defense attorneys available to represent indigent youth and to ensure defense lawyers are timely appointed and trained.

The investigation from the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division was initiated in 2013 amid complaints that black children and teenagers were treated unfairly in the family court, which handles about 6,000 youth cases annually.