Blog: School-to-Prison Pipeline

Teen Drug Overdose Death Rate Doubles Over Last Decade; News Roundup

Every week Reclaiming Futures rounds up the latest news on juvenile justice reform, adolescent substance use treatment, and teen mental health. 

Teen Drug Overdose Death Rate Doubles Over Last Decade (Psychiatry Advisor)
Trust For America's Health released a new report with findings that the American drug overdose mortality rate has more than doubled over the last ten years, and especially among young men between the ages of 12 to 25 years old. Prescription drugs were found to be responsible for many of the overdoses, and were also found to be connected to heroin addictions in young people.

November is Native American Heritage Month

first-nation-908605 (2)President Obama has proclaimed November as "Native American Heritage Month." This is a time to celebrate the many significant historic and contemporary contributions of American Indians and Alaska Natives, a population of 5.4 million people in the United States, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In the juvenile justice field, this month is not only a time to celebrate Native American heritage, but also an opportunity to make visible the unique youth justice challenges faced by Native American communities, and to highlight steps for collaboratively working with tribal communities to improve conditions for Native American youth and their families.

Though 1990 was the first year "Native American Indian Heritage Month" was recognized as a national legal holiday, according to the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, the pursuit of a holiday to celebrate heritage began in the early 20th century when Dr. Arthur C. Parker - a Seneca Indian and director of the Museum of Arts and Sciences in Rochester, New York - promoted a day to celebrate "First Americans." In May 1916, the first "American Indian Day" was declared by the state of New York, and many states observed a version of this day for years before official national recognition in 1990 for the month of November.

President Obama Announces New Actions to Promote Rehabilitation and Reintegration for the Formerly- Incarcerated; News Roundup

Every week Reclaiming Futures rounds up the latest news on juvenile justice reform, adolescent substance use treatment, and teen mental health. 

FACT SHEET: President Obama Announces New Actions to Promote Rehabilitation and Reintegration for the Formerly- Incarcerated (The White House)
On Monday President Obama announced steps the Administration will take to create "meaningful criminal justice reform," including reforming the reentry process of formerly-incarcerated individuals. Among the measures announced was the "Juvenile Reentry Assistance Program Awards to Support Public Housing Residents," a program to make fresh starts possible for youth with expungeable convictions. In an effort to promote second chances for youth, the Obama Administration will no longer use the term "juvenile delinquent,' and will now exclusively use the term  "justice-involved youth."

Opportunity Board Roundup: Juvenile Justice Grants, Jobs, Webinars and Events

opportunityBelow you'll find a selection of the latest grants, jobs, webinars and events posted to our Opportunity Board. Please share the Reclaiming Futures Opportunity Board with your colleagues in the juvenile justice, adolescent substance use and teen mental health areas. We encourage you to browse and to post!

Racial Justice, LGBTQ Advocates Should Partner on School Issues; News Roundup

Every week Reclaiming Futures rounds up the latest news on juvenile justice reform, adolescent substance use treatment, and teen mental health. 

Report: Racial Justice, LGBTQ Advocates Should Partner on School Issues (Juvenile Justice Information Exchange)
National advocacy organizations released a report this past week demonstrating the need for advocates of youth of color and advocates of LGBTQ youth to form stronger relationships in order to more effectively address disparities in school discipline, and to work toward dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline.

Mental Health and Safe Communities Act Introduced in the U.S. Senate; News Roundup

Every week Reclaiming Futures rounds up the latest news on juvenile justice reform, adolescent substance use treatment, and teen mental health. 

Mental Health and Safe Communities Act Introduced in the U.S. Senate (The Council of State Governments Justice Center)
On Wednesday U.S. Sen. John Cornyn introduced the Mental Health and Safe Communities Act of 2015, which is designed to improve outcomes for individuals with mental health disorders who come into contact with the criminal justice system. The hope is that this bill will address the prevalence of mental illness in jails, the exacerbation of disorders while incarcerated, as well as the resulting cost to taxpayers.

Casey: Time to Close ‘Youth Prisons’; News Roundup

Every week Reclaiming Futures rounds up the latest news on juvenile justice reform, adolescent substance abuse treatment, and teen mental health. 

Casey: Time to Close ‘Youth Prisons’ (Juvenile Justice Information Exchange)
The Annie E. Casey Foundation has called for an end to state juvenile correctional centers, which the foundation refers to as "youth prisons." This call to action is fueled by their recent report which finds that despite increased attention to the conditions of juvenile corrections institutions, incarcerated youth continue to be subjected to abusive, systematic maltreatment.

National Institute of Justice Announces Funding Opportunity To Increase School Safety

The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) has announced the fiscal year 2014 funding opportunity, Investigator-Initiated Research: The Comprehensive School Safety Initiative. The goals of this initiative are to improve the knowledge and understanding of school safety and violence, and enhance school safety programs through social and behavioral science research.
Under the Comprehensive School Safety Initiative, NIJ will allocate approximately $15 million for multiple grants to fund research that will address school safety issues directly and strive to achieve the following:

  • Examine the root causes of school violence
  • Develop new technologies
  • Apply evidence-based practices
  • Test pilot programs to enhance school safety

As a starting point, Congress has identified a number of factors and issues related to school safety programs that investigators might consider for research and evaluation:

  • The school-to-prison pipeline
  • Gaps in the nation’s mental health system
  • Exposure to violence in the media
  • Bullying prevention programs or other violence prevention programs/initiatives
  • Crisis/emergency management
  • Efforts to address disparate treatment of students (based on race, disability, sex, etc.)
  • School discipline alternatives and restorative justice

The Startling Data Behind “My Brother’s Keeper"

Young men of color drop out of school, come into contact with the criminal justice system, and become victims of violence at alarmingly high rates compared to their white peers. My Brother’s Keeper, an initiative recently announced by President Obama, aims to change that. Here are some startling figures that underscore the need to address this problem, which Obama calls “an issue of national importance:”

  • 86 percent of African-American boys and 82 percent of Hispanic boys are reading below proficiency levels–compared to 54 percent of their white peers–by the time they’ve hit fourth grade.
  • African-American and Hispanic young men are more than six times as likely to be victims of murder than their white peers and account for almost half of the country's murder victims each year.
  • African-Americans make up 16 percent of the overall youth population but account for 28 percent of juvenile arrests and 37 percent of prisoners and jail detainees.

Manuel Criollo, an organizer with the Los Angeles Labor-Community Strategy Center, calls the announcement of the new initiative “an important breakthrough for the movement and for institutions and foundations that have been working on this issue.”
Ten foundations, including the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, have committed to raise and provide $200 million over the next five years for programs for the initiative and will take a collaborative approach to increase opportunity and unlock the potential of young men of color.
In addition, a My Brother’s Keeper Task Force will review policies and programs to determine what’s working, how the initiative can become more effective, and highlight programs with the most positive impact.

Obama Wants to Stop "School-to-Prison Pipeline" for Minorities

A recent Los Angeles Times article reports, "President Obama plans to launch an initiative aimed at improving the lives of young black and Latino men by bringing businesses and foundations together with government agencies to change what an administration official called the 'school-to-prison pipeline.'" In addition:

The initiative, which Obama calls "My Brother's Keeper," is to be unveiled Thursday, the official said. It will mark the latest in a series of efforts by the president to spur social change outside the stalemated legislative process.
The move also represents an escalation of Obama's efforts to directly target the problems faced by young men of color.
During the last five years, Obama has met privately with groups of minority teenagers and young men in their communities and at the White House. But in his State of the Union speech, Obama pledged to go further, saying he would bring more of his resources as president to bear on the social problems that get in the way of success for minority youth.

See our past reporting on the school-to-prison pipeline here >>

[VIDEO] Zero-Tolerance in Schools can Harm Young Boys

Since the 1990s, young boys have increasingly become the victims of zero-tolerance policies in schools, resulting in 70% of expulsions across the U.S. The reason? According to Christina Hoff Sommers, American Enterprise Institute (AEI) resident scholar, boys, who for the most part love to engage in action narratives involving heroes, bad guys, rescues and shoot-ups, are being punished for acting like typical little boys.
The concern school officials have with such play is not a new concept, fearing that if the behavior is not dealt with in a harsh manner and at a young age it may result in future psychological disorders and malicious actions. Schools have even gone so far as to eliminate games like dodgeball, red rover, tag and have even renamed “tug of war” to “tug of peace.”
Experts argue that play is a critical basis for learning and boys’ heroic play is no exception. Researchers Mary Ellin Logue and Hattie Harvey even found that “bad guy” play:

  • Improved children’s conversation and imaginative writing
  • Builds moral imagination
  • Increases social competence
  • Imparts critical lessons about personal limits and self-restraint

Logue and Harvey also fear that growing intolerance for boys’ action-narrative-play may be detrimental to early language development and weaken their attachment to school.
The following video published by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), explores the growing gender gap in education and its implications for future generations:

[VIDEO] Harsh School Policies Create A School-To-Prison Pipeline

 SparkAction recently posted a video that examines harsh school policies and the increased policing of students that creates a school-to-prison pipeline. The growing concern is that while harsh school policies and a zero tolerance attitude may create the illusion of safety for students, the reality is that students are often treated like criminals. Students are fed into the judicial system for minor offenses such as hitting a peer with a ruler or fighting in the hallway, creating a sense of hostility within schools and a recipe for disaster in the years to come. See the video below:

Expulsion Rates in Kern County, California Raise Concerns about “Throwaway Kids”

The Center for Public Integrity recently posted a story about throwaway kids--kids that have been expelled by their schools and placed in alternative forms of education--examining the complex balance between discipline and education.
The piece focuses on independent study students, many of whom are required to meet with teachers once a week for four and a half hours and are assigned work to complete, at home, until their next meeting. For many critics, independent study seems like taking a step back.
“You take a kid who has already demonstrated that he’s not being successful in conventional school, and then you impose on him the duty that he’s going to self-study, to me that just seems insane,” said Tim McKinley, an attorney for California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA), a legal aid group.
Another concern is the rate at which minorities are expelled from Kern County, which is eerily similar to disproportionate minority contact in the juvenile justice system. In the 2009-2010 school year, Kern’s Bakersfield High School expelled:

  • 29 percent of black students (15 percent of the high school’s population)
  • 43 percent of Latino students (29 percent of the high school’s population)

Connecticut Towns Cut Student Arrests Without Compromising Safety

In Manchester High School, students were being arrested “practically for breathing,” according to Superintendent Ana Ortiz. That’s no longer the case. Last year, the school’s arrest rate fell 78 percent.
Manchester was one of three towns that the Connecticut Juvenile Justice Alliance worked with to dramatically reduce arrests in their schools without compromising safety. We share their stories in our new report, Adult Decisions: Connecticut Rethinks Student Arrests. Manchester, Windham and Stamford, Connecticut deserve heaps of praise for their work to end the flow of kids into the juvenile justice system, while also making their schools safer and more welcoming places for all students.
We started with a simple proposition: Kids shouldn’t be arrested in school for things we wouldn’t consider a crime outside of school – for example, for possession of tobacco. Minor misbehavior should be looked at as an opportunity to teach, not a reason to send a kid away in handcuffs. These districts found ways to support students and teach good behavior. That makes school a better environment for every student.

Zero-Tolerance, Zero Sense?

The good intentions of bolstering school safety that created the zero-tolerance system of automatic suspensions and expulsions for certain behavior are increasingly evaporating across the United States.
The latest reason why? A kindergartner in Pennsylvania was suspended for 10 days (later reduced to two days), required to undergo a psychological examination, and left with a permanent entry on her record.
Her troublesome behavior? School officials say that the kindergartner made a terroristic threat.
That threat? The girl’s suggestion that she and a friend play with her toy bubble gun after school.
To be clear, her “toy bubble gun” is a pink device that blows bubbles into the air.

[Video] Examining the School to Prison Pipeline in North Carolina

North Carolina is 3rd in the country in school suspensions, which disproportionately affect African American boys. In the video below, host Deborah Holt Noel brings together Dr. Janet Johnson (EDSTAR Analytics), Chris Hill (Education and Law Project) and Barbara Fedders (UNC School of Law)  to discuss the problem and offer solutions.

Watch School to Prison Pipeline Pt2 on PBS. See more from Black Issues Forum.

Top 5 Juvenile Justice Blog Posts | 2012

And this is it, folks, the end of our countdown! We've already shared the top 25, top 20, top 15, and top 10. And now, here are the top 5 blog posts of 2012!
5. Scared Straight Programs Are All Talk
After "Scared Straight" became popular in the 1970s, a number of research reports evaluated children who went through the program compared to control groups and found that many of the youth who attended “scared straight” programs were actually worse off than the youth who had no intervention.
4. Punishment vs. Rehabilitation and the Effects of Trauma on High-Risk Youth
Studies show that 75 percent of youth in the juvenile justice system have experienced traumatic events; 50 percent have endured post-traumatic stress symptoms.

Top 16-20 Juvenile Justice Blog Posts | 2012

Continuing our countdown of the top juvenile justice blog posts of 2012, here are numbers 16-20:
20. Lessons from Death Row Inmates: Reform the Juvenile Justice System
In looking for ways to reduce the number of death penalty cases, David R. Dow realized that a surprising number of death row inmates had similar biographies -- they started out as economically disadvantaged and otherwise troubled kids.
19. Youth Transfers to the Adult Corrections System More Likely to Reoffend
Juveniles transferred to adult corrections systems reoffend at a higher rate than those who stay in the juvenile justice system, according to a recent report from the National Institute of Corrections (NIC).
18. Beating the School-to-Prison Pipeline by Focusing on Truancy, Absenteeism
There is a strong correlation between missing school in the elementary years and winding up in jail, explains a Superior Court Judge.

Revisiting the School-to-Prison Pipeline

School to Prison PipelineThe Thelton E. Henderson Center for Social Justice at UC Berkeley published a report detailing a pilot program aimed at students of color and low-income families to shift from a zero-tolerance school discipline policy to a restorative justice policy. The report, “School-Based Restorative Justice as an Alternative to Zero-Tolerance Policies: Lessons from West Oakland,” [PDF download] draws evidence from Cole Middle School in West Oakland and finds that the restorative approach can help combat the school-to-prison pipeline and have a positive effect on disproportionate minority contact in the juvenile justice system.
The report’s executive summary has a great introduction to the major concepts included in the report (emphasis mine):

Restorative justice is an alternative to retributive zero-tolerance policies that mandate suspension or expulsion of students from school for a wide variety of misbehaviors including possession of alcohol or cigarettes, fighting, dress code violations, and cursing. Although zero-tolerance policies have resulted in substantial increases in student suspensions and expulsions for students of all races, African American and Hispanic/Latino youth are disproportionately impacted by a zero-tolerance approach.
Under zero tolerance, suspensions and expulsions can directly or indirectly result in referrals to the juvenile and adult criminal systems where African American and Hispanic/Latino youth are also disproportionately represented. This phenomenon, part of a process that criminalizes students, has been termed the school-to-prison pipeline.