DOJ Files Complaint Over ‘School to Prison Pipeline’


The Department of Justice is accusing Lauderdale County, Mississippi of running a school-to-prison pipeline, having any student who is accused of violating a school policy automatically put in juvenile detention under often terrible conditions. CNN reports:

The federal agency’s civil rights division seeks “meaningful negotiations” in 60 days to end the constitutional violations or else a federal lawsuit would be filed against state, county and local officials in Meridian, according to a Justice Department letter dated Friday to those officials.

The letter also names two Lauderdale County Youth Court judges, Frank Coleman and Veldore Young…

“The systematic disregard for children’s basic constitutional rights by agencies with a duty to protect and serve these children betrays the public trust,” Thomas E. Perez, assistant U.S. attorney general, said in a statement. “We hope to resolve the concerns outlined in our findings in a collaborative fashion, but we will not hesitate to take appropriate legal action if necessary.”…

On Friday, the U.S. Justice Department accused Meridian police of automatically arresting all students referred by the city’s public schools and then sending them to the county juvenile justice system, “where existing due process protections are illusory and inadequate,” the federal letter says.

The police department command staff and officers characterized their agency as a “taxi service” for the schools and juvenile detention facility, without assessing the circumstances of the alleged charges against students, the Justice Department said.

“The Youth Court places children on probation, and the terms of the probation set by the Youth Court and DYS require children on probation to serve any suspensions from school incarcerated in the juvenile detention center,” the Justice Department letter said.

The juvenile detention system in America should be a matter of enormous shame, but no one much cares — mostly because it tends to be poor and minority kids there.

Comments

  1. anandine says

    This is the sort of thing you would expect if the juvenile detention center were privately run, so the judges and cops would be getting kickbacks. If it is not corrupted by money, it must be they’re just assholes.

  2. d cwilson says

    We saw this movie in Pennsylvania already. I would not be surprised at all if the judges were getting kickbacks to send more kids to private detention facilities.

  3. Trebuchet says

    PZ left out a key portion of the CNN report:

    “Students most affected by this system are African-American children and children with disabilities,” the Justice Department said.

    Which, sadly, is exactly as I expected.

  4. eric says

    the terms of the probation set by the Youth Court and DYS require children on probation to serve any suspensions from school incarcerated in the juvenile detention center,

    Ho. Ly. Crap.

    In my K-12 years, I moved between six different school systems in two different countries, and I’ve never even heard of anything that f*cked up.

  5. Trebuchet says

    @6: Hmmm. Beards? Check. Upper Midwest? Check. Overweight Atheists per User:Conservative at Conservapedia? Check. Who knows?

  6. sivivolk says

    I’m curious as to why the Justice Department is trying “meaningful negotiations” and “hope to resolve the concerns outlined in our findings in a collaborative fashion”, and have given 60 days for them to shut this down.

    I would have thought they’d go right for a punitive lawsuit to discourage this sort of blatant civil rights violation.

    I’m also wondering how none of the local or regional authorities didn’t put a stop to it, or why none of the families/parents filed suit prior to this (though I suppose if it’s mostly poor and minority students, their families wouldn’t want to antagonize the cops).

    Man, sometimes I like the idea of increased regional authority, but so many news stories out from the States keep making me wary of it.

  7. d cwilson says

    I’m curious as to why the Justice Department is trying “meaningful negotiations” and “hope to resolve the concerns outlined in our findings in a collaborative fashion”, and have given 60 days for them to shut this down.

    Most likely, because that is the procedure in place for such allegations, no matter how egregious they are, and those phrases are boilerplate language included on all such letters.

    In other words, bureaucracy.

    I’m also wondering how none of the local or regional authorities didn’t put a stop to it,

    Because it’s Mississippi.

  8. busterggi says

    Of course the “school to prison” pipeline is only theoretical – after all, this is the heart of the Bible Belt where everyone is raised in a Christian atmosphere so no one ever does anything illegal, immoral or unethical.

  9. baal says

    Yet another example in a long line of why the criminal justice system needs to be nationally and flatly junked. I’m not sure exactly what to put in it’s place but the current model is broken beyond repair.

  10. Abby Normal says

    I’m reminded of an excellent Nina Simone song:


    Alabama’s gotten me so upset
    Tennessee made me lose my rest
    And everybody knows about Mississippi Goddamn

    (This is a show tune
    But the show hasn’t been written for it, yet.)

    Hound dogs on my trail
    School children sitting in jail
    Black cat cross my path
    I think every day’s gonna be my last

    Lord have mercy on this land of mine
    We all gonna get it in due time
    I don’t belong here
    I don’t belong there
    I’ve even stopped believing in prayer

    Don’t tell me
    I’ll tell you
    Me and my people just about due
    I’ve been there so I know
    They keep on saying “Go slow!”

    The song is appropriately titled Mississippi Goddamn. It was written in 1963. Go slow indeed.

  11. Pieter B, FCD says

    Abby Normal and sivivolk, did we hang out together 40+ years ago? You’re giving me chills.

  12. John Hinkle says

    …“where existing due process protections are illusory and inadequate,” the federal letter says.

    If they fix that, it’s still easy to circumvent. Just have the county judges label the kiddies as enemy combatants and off they go. What due process?

  13. Aliasalpha says

    School policy? So what, if you forget your sports gear you don’t get 100 lines, you get thrown in the joint for 6 months?

    What sort of fucking lunatic gives a school the power to arrest students?

  14. Crudely Wrott says

    What sort of fucking lunatic gives a school the power to arrest students?

    The sort of fucking lunatic that just knows they have the power to do so because Jesus loves us so, that’s what sort.

    If some one suffers because of this justice it is their own fault, obviously. They brought it upon themself because they didn’t love Jesus back enough. QED

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