FOX13 Investigates: Claims of near freezing temperatures at Juvenile Detention Center

by: Marius Payton Updated:


FOX13 investigates stories of inadequate heat in the Shelby County Juvenile Court Detention Facility that is moving a local group into action.

This as overnight temperatures dropped into the 20's Sunday night. This group brought sweatshirts to the kids being held there. 

Just City arrived at the facility earlier Monday afternoon with three boxes of sweatshirts for the 80 plus kids in the detention center. They say an ineffective climate control system, during sub-freezing temperatures, could equate to cruel and unusual punishment.

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As Mother Nature brought freezing temperatures to the Mid-South over the weekend, it was brought to Josh Spickler's attention that the kids being held at the Shelby County Juvenile Court Detention Facility lacked the proper clothing to stay warm.

"I just heard that through some of the attorneys in town who have the kids in court that often when they do interviews that the kids teeth are chattering, and they're cold," said Spickler.

So his group Just City, along with Bluff City Sports combined to deliver 80 sweatshirts  to the kids with hopes of keeping them warm.

"Chief Fields was very complimentary to me when I delivered the sweatshirts and assured me that they we could deliver them to the kids," said Spickler. “He told me I could communicate with them when we brought them in, but they are busy right now."

Unfortunately, this is not the first time this facility has had issues with the HVAC system. Spickler recalls, “Back in the summer, the building was without AC for a few days... maybe even weeks, and it's an old building.”

We reached out to the County about the allegations, and a spokesperson told FOX13 that they keep an average temperature of 71 degrees in the facility, and they check the temperature every shift.

He assured FOX13 that there are no issues with climate control in the building.

Spickler disagrees, even adding the lack of proper clothing to withstand the elements could be a violation of the kid’s 8th amendment rights. "I think there's very basic things that we have to provide anyone that's in custody, but you know especially children. We're talking about children here.  These are kids and a consistent temperature is not too much to ask." 

When asked if his group had planned any legal action against Shelby County, Spickler said, ”No.” But he added, “It is up to the leaders of the community to decide if and how the lives of these children matter.”