school to prison pipeline

Dept of Justice Sues State of Mississippi over "School to Prison" Pipeline


Alleges African-American and disabled students systematically targeted, rights violated

The U.S. Department of Justice on Thursday sued the state of Mississippi, the city of Meridien, the county and several state agencies, alleging they "help[ed] to operate a school to prison pipeline" that routinely violated the rights of African-American children and children with disabilities in the city of Meridien.

"As a result," the court filing states, "children in Meridien have been systematically incarcerated for allegedly committing minor offenses, including school disciplinary infractions, and are punished disproportionately without due process of law. The students most affected by this system are African-American children and children with disabilities."

In this September photo, Ella Townsend of Meridian, Miss., said she worries that if her son, Lionel, 13, gets in trouble at school again, he could be sent to prison and do time with dangerous adults. (Photo: Maggie Lee / Juvenile Justice Information Exchange)

Specific allegations include handcuffing, arresting and "incarcerat(ing) for days at a time without a probable cause hearing, regardless of the severity—or lack thereof— of the alleged offense or probation violation; not providing "meaningful representation" to the juveniles during the justice process; making the children "regularly wait more than 48 hours" for a probable cause hearing; and not advising children of their Miranda rights before the children admit to formal charges.

Students can be incarcerated for “dress code infractions such as wearing the wrong color socks or undershirt, or for having shirts untucked; tardies; flatulence in class; using vulgar language; yelling at teachers; and going to the bathroom or leaving the classroom without permission," the Associated Press reports.