August 17, 2012
By: Robert Asencio
Are the methods used to deal with juvenile delinquency hurting disadvantaged children? I’m certain we can agree, in most cases the answer is No. However, finding a balance in effectively dealing with this dilemma is without doubt challenging.
This is a subject of much interest to those of us charged with ensuring the publics’ safety and managing the delivery of police services. As a commanding officer it’s my obligation to ensure officers under my supervision are fairly applying the law and using discretion when needed and applicable.
Sadly many of those we come into contact with are persons with disadvantages – poverty, immigrants, victims of abuse, physical and mental illness, addiction and so much more. Factors often overlooked when reacting to delinquent behavior. I admit it’s taken me years to realize and clearly understand how many of my actions – within the law – have created more harm than not. I’m sure I’ve aided in feeding the cycle of many disadvantaged youth and the judicial system.
Interesting enough, today I was sent the following information on the cycle of “schools-to-prison pipeline” and its disproportionate affects on disadvantage children and letter sent by the Department of Justice to Meridian, Miss:
— “Research has shown that youth who are disproportionately impacted by the school-to-prison pipeline are likely to be those who are already the most vulnerable: low-income students, children of color, English language learners, youth in foster care, students with disabilities (whether physical, psychological, or developmental), and homeless children. Often such students fall into more than one of these categories.
It is against this background that the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) released a stunning letter last week summarizing the findings of a comprehensive investigation into the unconstitutional treatment of children in Meridian, Miss. In its press release, the DOJ asserts that the local police, the county juvenile court, and the state agency in charge of the juvenile detention center in Meridian, ‘help to operate a school-to-prison pipeline whereby children arrested in local schools become entangled in a cycle of incarceration without substantive and procedural protections required by the U.S. Constitution.’
Approximately 13 percent of Meridian’s students are identified as having disabilities, and its students are suspended or expelled at a rate almost seven times the rate for Mississippi schools statewide.
Yes, the ‘serious and longstanding’ violations uncovered in Mississippi are unacceptable and should be condemned. But they are not limited to a single town in the South. The school-to-prison pipeline exists in cities, suburbs and towns all across the United States. It is not only there. It is here.” —
So, I ask is this a problem in Florida and will the cuts and increased demands on Public Education aide in feeding into the cycle of “school-to-prison pipeline” cycle?
After all, you’re being evaluated on your performance.
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