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Mississippi school sends kids to prison instead of detention

There's always talk about schools needing to get tougher or school employees being at the end of their rope, but this is insane.


Feds: Mississippi county runs 'school-to-prison pipeline'

Officials in Lauderdale County, Mississippi, have operated "a school-to-prison pipeline" that violates the constitutional rights of juveniles by incarcerating them for alleged school disciplinary infractions, some as minor as defiance, the U.S. Department of Justice said Friday.

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

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.

State and local officials couldn't be reached immediately for comment Friday.

"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.

In 2010, Lauderdale County officials and the center reached an agreement to reform the jail system and consider alternatives to sending youths to the detention center, said the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit civil rights group.

"I think this is evidence of a broken system where the most vulnerable population of kids are not receiving their constitutionally guaranteed rights," Jody Owens II, managing attorney for the center's Mississippi office, told CNN.

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.


From the sound of it, this has been going on for years.  How did they get away with this for so long before a higher authority finally got around to doing something?

Answer Question

Asked by NotPanicking at 1:34 PM on Aug. 12, 2012 in Politics & Current Events

Level 51 (421,174 Credits)
Answers (12)
  • This is shocking to me. Why weren't their parents outraged? Why would a parent sit back and allow this to happen? There are countless number of of child abuse charges that should and hopefully will be filed. Every person in authority that instituted this and allowed it to continue needs to be charged and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. This story makes me ill.

    Answer by meooma at 1:41 PM on Aug. 12, 2012

  • I don't even have words for how wrong this is. This is appalling.

    Answer by theMOMmission at 1:44 PM on Aug. 12, 2012

  • Why would a parent sit back and allow this to happen?

    When the school and law enforcement and the court are all acting in collusion, there's not really much a parent can do until the state or fed government finally gets involved. I would guess they've been complaining all along.

    Comment by NotPanicking (original poster) at 1:46 PM on Aug. 12, 2012

  • I'm a cynic, so my first answer would be that the reason this has gone unnoticed for so long is because it's an election year. It was ignored until now. I doubt it was unnoticed.


    Answer by QuinnMae at 1:49 PM on Aug. 12, 2012

  • Sorry, should have read 'this has gone *unreported* for so long'.

    Answer by QuinnMae at 2:00 PM on Aug. 12, 2012

  • i'm a cynic also, and aside from it being an election year, my first response would be akin to the fact the majority of these populations affected are poor, untrained, uneducated (i'm talking parents/adults), and as is the case a lot of the time, not a real concern to teach/raise their kids to know/respect authority (police/school/teachers, etc).
    as always, the first defense starts at home, and as sad and blunt as it is, the home has failed. mississippi is one of the poorest states, not only financially, but educationally, too. you can't raise children with a don't-care attitude and expect them to 'get it' when it comes to behavior/respect.
    the irony is they act shocked when real disciplinary action is taken. are those in the article extreme cases? yes, probably. however, if parents expected more of the children, and the children were taught and expected to 'act right', well, they aren't being jailed for forgetting a pencil.

    Answer by dullscissors at 2:37 PM on Aug. 12, 2012

  • they aren't being jailed for forgetting a pencil.

    In a way, they are - the police don't investigate what the school has told them. They take it at face value. In other words, kid forgets pencil. Teacher at the end of his patience sends kid to office, accusing them of doing it intentionally. Office writes kid up for disturbing the class and suspends them. Police take kid into custody.

    The exact same thing happens in schools every day, the difference being there's no legal involvement. I had a friend who spent more days sitting in the hallway instead of in her algebra class because the alcoholic teacher looked for reasons to pick on her, but she never had trouble in any other class with any other teacher. He was fired half way through the next year. We know there are bad teachers and bad administrators. They're problem enough without involving the legal system.

    Comment by NotPanicking (original poster) at 2:47 PM on Aug. 12, 2012

  • They're problem enough without involving the legal system. -


    Answer by dullscissors at 2:50 PM on Aug. 12, 2012

  • Good grief - I would move.

    Answer by booklover545 at 2:09 PM on Aug. 13, 2012

  • Wow I am speechless

    Answer by Alisim at 8:29 AM on Aug. 14, 2012

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