Tuesday’s Children and the Law News Roundup

The Shocking Details of a Mississippi School-to-Prison Pipeline, Colorlines

A bracing Department of Justice lawsuit filed last month against Meridian, Miss., . . . argues that the city’s juvenile justice system has operated a school to prison pipeline that shoves students out of school and into the criminal justice system, and violates young people’s due process rights along the way.

In Meridian, when schools want to discipline children, they do much more than just send them to the principal’s office. They call the police, who show up to arrest children who are as young as 10 years old. Arrests, the Department of Justice says, happen automatically, regardless of whether the police officer knows exactly what kind of offense the child has committed or whether that offense is even worthy of an arrest. The police department’s policy is to arrest all children referred to the agency.

Once those children are in the juvenile justice system, they are denied basic constitutional rights. They are handcuffed and incarcerated for days without any hearing and subsequently warehoused without understanding their alleged probation violations.

Marijuana Decriminalization Law Brings Down Juvenile Arrests in California, The Center for Public Integrity

The San Francisco-based Center on Juvenile & Criminal Justice (CJCJ) recently released a policy briefing with an analysis of arrest data collected by the California Department of Justice’s Criminal Justice Statistics Center. The briefing, “California Youth Crime Plunges to All-Time Low,” identifies a new state marijuana decriminalization law that applies to juveniles, not just adults, as the driving force behind the  plummeting arrest totals.

After the new pot law went into effect in January 2011, simple marijuana possession arrests of California juveniles fell from 14,991 in 2010 to 5,831 in 2011, a 61 percent difference, the report by CJCJ senior research fellow Mike Males found. . . .

In November, as Males blogged recently, voters in Washington state and Colorado voted to legalize but regulate marijuana use, like alcohol, for people over 21. California’s 2010 law did not legalize marijuana, but it officially knocked down “simple” possession of less than one ounce to an infraction from a misdemeanor — and it applies to minors, not just people over 21. Police don’t arrest people for infractions; usually, they ticket them. And infractions are punishable not by jail time, but by fines — a $100 fine in California in the case of less than one ounce of pot.

International News:

Changes to Juvenile Welfare Law OK’d, Business World – Philippines

Senate Bill (SB) No. 3324 approved by the justice and human rights and youth, women and family relations committees, states that “no penalty shall be imposed on children for violations” of local ordinances, “instead the child shall be brought to his or her residence or to the barangay hall to be fetched by his or her parents.”

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