Schoolchildren arrested, handcuffed, put in “juvie,” sprayed with chemicals, beaten and sexually abused—all for minor infractions of school rules
The staff of Reentry Central prides itself on bringing our readers the latest news concerning reentry and criminal justice issues. Sometimes we come across a news story that shakes us to our core. The following article that appeared in Politico Magazine is one such story that left our managing editor in tears. Reentry Central vows to continue to work with others who want to destroy the school-to-prison pipeline. After reading the following article we hope that you will join the effort.
How Prison Stints Replaced Study Hall
America’s problem with criminalizing kids.
By JODY OWENS
March 15, 2015
Police officers in Meridian, Mississippi, were spending so much time hauling handcuffed students from school to the local juvenile jail that they began describing themselves as “just a taxi service.” It wasn’t because schools in this east Mississippi town were overrun by budding criminals or juvenile superpredators—not by a long shot. Most of the children were arrested and jailed simply for violating school rules, often for trivial offenses.
One 15-year-old girl, for example, was suspended and sent to the Lauderdale County Juvenile Detention Center for a dress code violation. Her jacket was the wrong shade of blue. A boy served a suspension in the juvenile lock-up for passing gas in the classroom. Another landed behind bars because he walked to the alternative school instead of taking the bus.
For many kids, a stint in “juvie” was just the beginning of a never-ending nightmare. Arrests could lead to probation. Subsequent suspensions were then considered probation violations, leading back to jail. And suspensions were a distinct possibility in a district where the NAACP found a suspension rate that was more than 10 times the national average.