On June 29 of last year, a 15-year-old boy spent four days in the custody of the San Francisco Juvenile Probation Department for a non-violent property offense. Now, his mother, Tureko Straughter, is suing the department, accusing probation officials of unlawfully holding her son in custody, SF Gate reported.
Straughter is also suing San Francisco’s Chief Probation Officer Allen Nance, three San Francisco Police officers and both the city and county of San Francisco. Straughter is seeking a jury trial and monetary damages. The teen’s identity has not been released.
According to the 23-page complaint, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Braden Woods ordered the teen’s release on the same day he was detained, arguing “there was not sufficient probable cause,” to keep him in jail. However, the teen remained at the facility anyway.
According to the complaint, a probation officer found the record of another teen with the same last name and birth date as the detainee. It turns out, that record cited the teen’s twin. The suit claims that officer maliciously assumed the detained teen was using a false name.
The complaint further alleges the teen slept in a locked cell, and his experience at the facility “caused mental anguish, emotional distress, feelings of unjust treatment, reputational harm, fear, anxiety, humiliation and trauma.”
“Finding out my son was supposed to be released really hurt,” said Straughter, in a statement. “He could have been home with me and his brothers. I was scared for him.”
Straughter, who said her son had never been legal trouble before, visited him three times. Each time, she was given only 45 minutes to speak with her son, and each visit was supervised. Judge Woods released the teen once and for all on July 3, during a detention hearing.
The 15-year-old released a statement that read, “Instead of juvenile hall, I think the city should invest in the community. Youth community centers provide important support to young people.”
“Too often, incarceration is a default response to youthful behavior, even though we know that incarceration is harmful and disproportionately impacts young people of color,” said attorney Meredith Desautels, who represents the teen through Bay Area Legal Aid. “This case is emblematic of a systemic problem we have here in San Francisco and around the state.”
Tonja Renée Stidhum