Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Justice Department Probes Another “School-to-Prison Pipeline”

The Justice Department is investigating how a Texas county punishes kids for missing school, targeting what civil-rights advocates call the school-to-prison pipeline: policies that disproportionately rout certain children — primarily blacks and Latinos — out of class and into the juvenile justice system.
In Texas, failure to attend school, or truancy, is a criminal offense punishable by fines up to $500, plus court costs. Judges also have wide discretion in levying additional penalties. They can order children to attend counseling or perform community service, or even wear an ankle monitor or drop out of school entirely.

That policy, and the way it is applied, disproportionately harms low-income children, blacks and Latinos and those with disabilities, according to a report released in 2013 by Texas Appleseed, a nonprofit advocacy group that has sought federal intervention in the state. Kids who miss too much school aren’t always just playing hooky, though. They may have other reasons for not being in class, such as homelessness or having to care for other family members.

Research suggests that incarcerating young people is often ineffective, and can actually make them more likely to commit another crime. Those findings, and a desire to cut high incarceration costs, have led several states to rethink the way they handle juvenile offenders.  READ MORE

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