How Prison Stints Replaced Study Hall

Politico

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 10times the national average.


In 2012, the U.S. Department of Justice filed suit to stop the “taxi service” in Meridian’s public schools, where 86 percent of the students are black. The DOJ suit, still unresolved, said children were being incarcerated so “arbitrarily and severely as to shock the conscience.”...


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