Department of Justice Zeroing in on Juvenile Justice
DOJ is targetting alarming school-to-prison pipeline issues
The Wall Street Journal reports that the Department of Justice is digging their heels in deep to address juvenile justice issues, particularly in Mississippi where young black students suffer disproportionate school arrest rates. Assistant Attorney General Tom Perez of the DOJ's civil rights division said that they are investigating whether city and county officials in Meridian, Miss., have been engaging in a "pattern of practice" of violating the constitutional rights of African American school students.
There have been numerous reports of black students ending up in court over very minor infractions while white students are reportedly given less punishment for similar behavior.
Invoking the school-to-prison pipeline problem that juvenile justice advocates have been trying to raise awareness about for years, Perez said "The juvenile justice system should not serve as a stop on the way to the adult prison system. This is why the department is committed to investigating Meridian schools for allegations that children are being severely punished for the most minor infractions of school rules. This would be an abuse of the justice system and clearly unconstitutional."
Elected officials in Mississippi and throughout the South -- form governors to locally elected judges -- routinely run campaigns on "getting tough on crime," which has led to policies that permeate the Southern states that place juveniles -- mostly African Americans -- in prison or under law enforcement supervision at early ages, and for the smallest violations. But such polices are costing these states and taxpayers money at unsustainable levels, and meanwhile crime rates haven't been impacted by all the tough talk and sentencing. On top of that, the conditions of juvenile prisons, especially in Mississippi, are notoriously inhumane, as reported by the Department of Justice itself two years ago.