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CI: Feds Finally Take Action to End School to Prison Pipeline

January 15, 2014 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Criminal Injustice Series, Education, Intersectionality, Prison Industrial Complex, What People are Doing to Change the World

Criminal InJustice is a weekly series devoted to taking action against inequities in the U.S. criminal justice system. Nancy A. Heitzeg, Professor of Sociology and Race/Ethnicity, is the Editor of CI. Kay Whitlock, co-author of Queer (In)Justice, is contributing editor of CI. Criminal Injustice is published every Wednesday at 6 pm.

Feds Finally Take Action to End School to Prison Pipeline
by nancy a heitzeg

Last week, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division responded to more than a decade of data-driven critique of zero tolerance policies, the criminalization of education, and the creation of a school to prison pipeline. The Departments jointly issued extensive new guidelines urging schools to abandon zero tolerance policies, reduce a “policing” approach, and rely instead on restorative justice .

Persistent and consistent disparities in rate of suspensions and expulsions are the heart of the official critique. As the New York Times notes in “The Civil Rights of Children“:
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“The guidance documents included striking data on racial inequities. For example, African-American students represent only 15 percent of public school students, but they make of 35 percent of students suspended once, 44 percent of those suspended more than once and 36 percent of those expelled. Statistical information does not in itself prove discrimination. But research has shown that black students do not engage in more serious or more frequent misbehavior than other students.

The treatment of disabled students should be a source of national shame: They represent 12 percent of students in the country, but they make up 25 percent of students receiving multiple out-of-school suspensions and 23 percent of students subjected to a school-related arrest.”

This is consistent with a growing national concern over the school to prison pipeline.  The U.S. Department of Education and the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice committed in 2012 to addressing disparities in the school suspensions and expulsions as a civil rights matter, including filing suit against the State of Mississippi for operating a school to prison pipeline in Meridian. In December of 2012 the first ever Congressional hearings on the school to prison pipeline were held and featured expert testimony that detailed both the scope of the problem and solutions including calls for decreased funding incentives for police, increased funding for counseling, support staff  and educational resources, mandatory nation-wide data collection on suspension, expulsion and arrests at school, and support for evidenced-based solutions to end the persistent racial disparities that shape the contours of the pipeline.

The guidelines leave some questions – especially around the police presence at schools-but they are a much welcome step forward that reminds us too of the importance of federal framing and leadership. The complete set of resources is included below.

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CI: School to Prison Pipeline Under Federal Scrutiny

December 12, 2012 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Corrupt Judiciary, Corrupt Legislature, Criminal Defense, Criminal Injustice Series, Education, Intersectionality, Prison Industrial Complex

Criminal InJustice is a weekly series devoted to taking action against inequities in the U.S. criminal justice system. Nancy A. Heitzeg, Professor of Sociology and Race/Ethnicity, is the Editor of CI. Criminal Injustice is published every Wednesday at 6 pm.

School to Prison Pipeline Under Federal Scrutiny
by nancy a heitzeg

For more than ten years now, scholars, activists, educators, juvenile justice personnel and parents have been discussing the so-called School to Prison Pipeline All this discussion has not produced meaningful policy changes that result in the lessening of the flow of youth of color from schools into legal systems.

This may change soon. Some recent actions:

  • Department of Justice Sues Meridian Mississippi over School to Prison Pipeline:

The Justice Department is suing state and local officials in Mississippi for allegedly violating the rights of children — especially black and disabled — with routine and unjustified arrests. A federal complaint accuses officers in Meridian, Mississippi, of operating a “school to prison pipeline,” in which youth are consistently arrested after being suspended from school for infractions such as dress code violations or talking back to teachers. It is the first time the Justice Department has used a 1994 federal anti-discrimination law on behalf of youths.

  • Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights on “Ending the School-to-Prison Pipeline” on Wednesday, December 12:

This will be the first-ever Congressional hearing on the school-to-prison pipeline and it’s intent is to discuss the alarming rate at which young people are being pushed out of the classroom and into the courts for relatively minor, non-violent offenses. According to the press release issued by Senator Durbin’s office, “The hearing will explore the problems with the pipeline as well as successful reforms and new initiatives to help end it.”

  • Closing the School Discipline Gap: Research to Practice, Washington, DC January 2013

Jointly hosted by the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at UCLA’s Civil Rights Project, Education Week, Gallup, and the Equity Project at Indiana University, the conference will highlight new studies by leading national researchers, who will discuss ways to improve school climate through effective alternatives to punitive disciplinary approaches and strategies for eliminating disparities in school discipline based on race, gender, and disability status. The educational and social costs of excessive and disparate disciplinary exclusion have begun to receive attention from a larger national audience. Most notably, the Supportive School Discipline Initiative—launched in 2011 by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Attorney General Eric Holder—seeks to bring this issue into the public dialogue and build consensus around solutions. The need to redress excessive discipline has been linked to efforts to improve school attendance, achievement, and graduation rates.

Long over-due.

The costs in dollars and lives is immeasurable,  although the infographics below attempt an estimate.

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Prosecutors Sue Mississippi for “School to Prison Pipeline”

October 26, 2012 By: seeta Category: 2012 Election, Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Education, Intersectionality, Poverty, Prison Industrial Complex, White Privilege

From Democracy Now:

The Justice Department is suing state and local officials in Mississippi for allegedly violating the rights of children — especially black and disabled — with routine and unjustified arrests. A federal complaint accuses officers in Meridian, Mississippi, of operating a “school to prison pipeline,” in which youth are consistently arrested after being suspended from school for infractions such as dress code violations or talking back to teachers. It is the first time the Justice Department has used a 1994 federal anti-discrimination law on behalf of youths.

Download the complaint [pdf]

School to Prison Pipeline Thrives

August 22, 2011 By: seeta Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Prison Industrial Complex

Texas schools continue to push the school-to-prison pipeline as students as young as five years old end up in courtrooms pleading guilty to school bus skirmishes, spilling milk, spraying perfume in class, running in the hall, and violating dress codes. The Washington Post reports that 6 in 10 students were suspended or expelled at least once from seventh grade on. These students were nearly three times more likely to be involved in the juvenile justice system the next year.

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The Shocking Details of a Mississippi School-to-Prison Pipeline

December 05, 2012 By: seeta Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Education, Intersectionality, Poverty, Prison Industrial Complex, White Privilege

From Colorlines:

Cedrico Green can’t exactly remember how many times he went back and forth to juvenile. When asked to venture a guess he says, “Maybe 30.” He was put on probation by a youth court judge for getting into a fight when he was in eighth grade. Thereafter, any of Green’s school-based infractions, from being a few minutes late for class to breaking the school dress code by wearing the wrong color socks, counted as violations of his probation and led to his immediate suspension and incarceration in the local juvenile detention center.

But Green wasn’t alone. A bracing Department of Justice lawsuit filed last month against Meridian, Miss., where Green lives and is set to graduate from high school this coming year, argues that the city’s juvenile justice system has operated a school to prison pipeline that shoves students out of school and into the criminal justice system, and violates young people’s due process rights along the way.

In Meridian, when schools want to discipline children, they do much more than just send them to the principal’s office. They call the police, who show up to arrest children who are as young as 10 years old. Arrests, the Department of Justice says, happen automatically, regardless of whether the police officer knows exactly what kind of offense the child has committed or whether that offense is even worthy of an arrest. The police department’s policy is to arrest all children referred to the agency.

Once those children are in the juvenile justice system, they are denied basic constitutional rights. They are handcuffed and incarcerated for days without any hearing and subsequently warehoused without understanding their alleged probation violations.

“[D]efendants engage in a pattern or practice of unlawful conduct through which they routinely and systematically arrest and incarcerate children, including for minor school rule infractions, without even the most basic procedural safeguards, and in violation of these children’s constitutional rights,” the DOJ’s 37-page complaint reads. Meridian’s years of systemic abuse punish youth “so arbitrarily and severely as to shock the conscience,” the complaint reads.

Download Complaint

CI: “PriSchool” ~ Architecture of Oppression

September 10, 2014 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Criminal Injustice Series, Education, Intersectionality, Prison Industrial Complex

Criminal InJustice is a weekly series devoted to taking action against inequities in the U.S. criminal justice system. Nancy A. Heitzeg, Professor of Sociology and Race/Ethnicity, is the Editor of CI. Kay Whitlock, co-author of Queer (In)Justice, is contributing editor of CI. Criminal Injustice is published every Wednesday at 6 pm.

 

“PriSchool” ~ Architecture of Oppression

by Kay Whitlock and Nancy A Heitzeg

The thesis looks to address the outflow of prisoners and combat the challenges of recidivism.  This is done through the implementation of a new typology of prison facility that symbiotically merges the program of incarceration and education.  The prison would be a prison for non-violent drug offenders.  The school would be a school of criminology and criminal justice.  Glen J. Santayana

It’s a prison! And a school! What could possibly be more American in the age of “colorblindness,” privatization and austerity?

Looking like a gigantic set of stacked animal cages and set off  by a dry moat (a new urban iteration of the “ha ha wall”), the so-called (and coyly named)  “PriSchool” is perhaps the most obviously (perhaps unintentionally)  grotesque example of the kind of proposed criminal legal system “reform” being advanced these days. One need not question Glen Santayana’s presumably good intentions in order to challenge the design, and assumptions on which it appears to be based.

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Maybe the “stacked animal cages” look isn’t entirely coincidental. The “school” part of the design is twofold: vocational skills – carpentry, cooking, mechanics, beautyshop/barbering, etc. – will be taught to prisoners who, in turn, may obtain a GED and will be studied by “interact with” non-inmate students  pursuing knowledge at the PriSchool’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice. In time, former prisoners may be hired as snitches consultants to criminal investigations.

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CI: Decriminalizing School Discipline

February 12, 2014 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Criminal Injustice Series, Education, Intersectionality, Prison Industrial Complex, What People are Doing to Change the World

Criminal InJustice is a weekly series devoted to taking action against inequities in the U.S. criminal justice system. Nancy A. Heitzeg, Professor of Sociology and Race/Ethnicity, is the Editor of CI. Kay Whitlock, co-author of Queer (In)Justice, is contributing editor of CI. Criminal Injustice is published every Wednesday at 6 pm.

Decriminalizing School Discipline: How to Stop the School to Prison Pipeline at The Source
by nancy a heitzeg

Last week, I had the privilege of participating on this panel at the American Bar Association Midyear Meeting: “The School-to-Prison Pipeline: What are the Problems? What are the Solutions?” The event was jointly sponsored by the ABA’s Coalition on Racial and Ethnic Justice, the Criminal Justice Section and the Counsel for Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Educational Pipeline. Panelists included the Reverend Janette C. Wilson of RainbowPUSH; Dr. Artika Tyner, a clinical law professor and diversity director at the University of St. Thomas School of Law; Mariame Kaba of Project NIA and Prison Culture; Robert Saunooke, chair of the ABA’s Tribal Courts Council, and Julie Biehl, Director of Children and Family Justice Center, Northwestern University Law School.

The panel was a call for lawyers, educators, everyone to take whatever actions they could to interrupt the school to prison pipeline. In particular, emphasis was placed on the role of the new Federal Guidelines on School Climate and Discipline and the opportunity offered now to move away from decades of zero tolerance. The piece below, written for Praeger/ABC-CLIO Publishing’s on-line series Enduring Questions, highlights the role of zero tolerance policies and police in the schools, both key policy cornerstones in the school to prison pipeline.

Over the years, Criminal InJustice has written much on this topic, in part, with the  hope that this may be the a pathway into a larger social critique of the prison industrial complex which impels it. It has been my experience that however deep the commitment some have to “law and order”, to the harsh policing and punishment of adults, the school to prison pipeline gives many pause. There is something so shocking, so fundamentally unfair about the notion of children, increasingly young,  being policed in the pursuit of an education, being criminalized for mere childish misbehavior. It is so unfair it can sometimes shine a light back on the entire system that it is designed to feed.

So let it now.

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CI: Poverty as a Prison

January 08, 2014 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Corrupt Legislature, Criminal Injustice Series, Economic Development, Economic Terrorism, Intersectionality, Poverty, Prison Industrial Complex

Criminal InJustice is a weekly series devoted to taking action against inequities in the U.S. criminal justice system. Nancy A. Heitzeg, Professor of Sociology and Race/Ethnicity, is the Editor of CI. Kay Whitlock, co-author of Queer (In)Justice, is contributing editor of CI. Criminal Injustice is published every Wednesday at 6 pm.

Poverty as a Prison
by nancy a heitzeg

“The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.”
                                                                            ~Anatole France, The Red Lily, 1894

Before the War on Drugs became our national fixation, there was a short-lived, halfheartedly implemented War on Poverty. Would that the same amount of resources and political will been expended here. But hyper-individualism, rampant capitalism, and a political discourse that persistently racializes poverty and stigmatizes governmental assistance continue to stand in the way.

We are left instead with the War on the Poor.

The gaps between rich and poor grow, while Congress slashes $ 1 billion from Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), refuses to extend meager Unemployment Insurance (UI) to millions out of work, and an increase in the minimum wage ( which would still fall far short of Living Wage) remains contentious.

Our national failure to provide any meaningful economic opportunities for tens of millions of Americans is doubly bitter when poverty and homelessness — a realm of little to no choice – is then reframed as exactly choice, the result of some failure of “personal responsibility”.

The reality of course is that over-whelming majority of the 47 million officially poor are there because of structure and policy — low wages, lack of affordable housing, a shrinking social safety net, a decimated public education system, a host of conservative and neo-liberal “reforms – not because of flawed personal choices.

The reality is that poverty per se is a sort of prison, where choice is heavily constrained, surveillance is endless, “social services” are characterized by red-tape, condescension and increased overlap with the criminal justice system, where survival shapes daily life, and Right Now is the key consideration.

If this were not challenge enough, poverty itself is additionally criminalized via a host of federal, state and local laws, Not that this is new – but the cumulative effect of these laws in the context of the prison industrial complex, a collapsed job market, and a government bent on “privatization” is a particularly toxic mix at this moment.

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