For the family court investigation, Justice Department officials analyzed data from nearly 33,000 juvenile cases, and looked at court records, transcripts, policies and procedures and external reports.
It also alleges that black children were nearly 1½ times more likely than whites to have cases handled formally, rather than through diversion or other informal means. They were 2½ times more likely to be detained before going to trial, and three times more likely to be sent to the Division of Youth Services for parole violations.
Gupta said in the letter that several factors contribute to the problems, including the "staggering caseload of the sole public defender" handling delinquency cases, an "arbitrary" system of choosing who gets a public defender, and other issues.
She also criticized the organizational structure of the court, in which "the probation officer acts as both an arm of the prosecution as well as a child advocate." That setup is "contrary to separation of powers principles," Gupta wrote.
—The DOJ reached a settlement in 2012 with the Juvenile Court of Shelby County, Tennessee, calling for various reforms.
—The partial settlement of a lawsuit alleging due process rights violations in Lauderdale County, Mississippi, was announced in June.
—The department in March announced an investigation of due process and disability discrimination concerns in Dallas.