Mississippi Runs ‘School to Prison’ Pipeline for African-American and Disabled Students
The U.S. Department of Justice has found that officials in Mississippi operate a “school to prison” pipeline by jailing students for minor disciplinary infractions, thus violating the juvenile’s constitutional rights.
According to the Justice Department, the students most impacted by this pipeline are African-American students and students with disabilities.
If the counties where this pipeline operates does not resolve to end it within 60 days, the Justice Department plans to file suit, according to a letter the Justice Department sent to officials in Meridian, Mississippi.
“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.”
In 2009, the Lauderdale County Juvenile Detention Facility in Meridian was the target of a federal class-action lawsuit by the Southern Poverty Law Center that alleged children and teens were subjected to “shockingly inhumane” treatment, the center said.
The alleged mistreatment included youngsters being “crammed into small, filthy cells and tormented with the arbitrary use of Mace as a punishment for even the most minor infractions — such as ‘talking too much’ or failing to sit in the ‘back of their cells,’” the center said in a statement.
The U.S. Justice Department says Meridian police arrests all students referred by the city’s public schools and then sends them to the county juvenile justice system, “where existing due process protections are illusory and inadequate,” the federal letter says.
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