Being Aware of the School-to-Prison Pipeline Many Minorities Fall Victim to

Rehabilitation efforts are key to addressing the school-to-prison pipeline. Resources are of the essence when it comes to these situations. Yet, there is a lack of these resources when it comes to the criminal justice system seeping into the educational environments. The result of this causes children to be removed from their education and directed into the prison system.

Throughout the United States in 2000, there were over three million school suspensions and over 97,000 expulsions.” The punitive actions taken on these children show them that they are “bad children,” which can build a belief with themselves that they don’t belong in an educational environment. These punitive actions are not positive actions taken to aid children, yet they are more negative and escalate the bad behavior the children are having. In many cases, there are educators and guidance counselors who want to help these troubled youth but the resources at their exposure are not enough to provide the help these children need. Additionally, many of these children have disabilities that are not addressed as stated, “in some states such as Florida and Maine, as many as 60% of all juvenile offenders have disabilities that affect their ability to learn.” The children’s need for help is high, yet their needs cannot be met with the level of resources that is available to them.

Minorities, specifically Black children are hurting the most from insufficient resources when it comes to the school-to-prison pipeline. As stated, “in 2000, African Americans represented only 17% of public school enrollment nationwide but accounted for 34% of suspensions.12 Likewise, in 2003, African-American youths made up 16% of the nation’s overall juvenile population but accounted for 45% of juvenile.” These disparities are part of an ongoing racist, stereotype system that has been in the US for hundreds of years. Moreover, the quality of education in many Black neighborhoods is poor and places many of these Black children in unfortunate situations. The situations the Black children face may lead them to be treated unfairly. History has shown that minorities have been victims of unequal educational opportunities and educational funding. The inequality from this has led to the suffering of many children to misbehave or skip school. When these actions are taken by these children the punitive consequences are then handed to them, where it creates a cycle of continued misbehavior. That cycle then results in many of these children being placed in prison at a young age and never having the chance to be rehabilitated to do better for themselves and their families.

A way to fight the school-to-prison pipeline is to investigate ways schools discipline their children. Create better practices for the troubled youth to help them understand their skills and abilities. Being able to lift someone’s spirits can go a long way. Additionally, provide the children with better guidance by having a counselor, building a success plan, providing mediation/after-school programs, and anything that will bring a smile to the children’s faces. Many times, troubled youth just need someone to talk to about what is going on in their life, and to have someone at times needed to have that conversation can be valuable to the child’s future success.

On October 21, 2021, from 4-5 pm the University of Houston is having a free virtual seminar titled “Disrupting the School-to-Prison Pipeline.” You can RSVP here: https://cloudapps.uh.edu/sendit/l/TfPadoe0dATtluDVszZAwQ/vuj6ArX8eJiymXcuifQ9Yg/nKHYspsdU75Esbp7LuY763LA

National Juvenile Justice Network is Hosting Several Events throughout October

In a Proclamation from the White House, President Biden officially claimed October 2021 as National Youth Justice Action Month. He called on Americans to “observe this month by taking action to support our youth and by participating in appropriate ceremonies, activities, and programs in their communities.” [1] Heeding that call, I have provided events and actions that we can take throughout the month (and beyond) to support this year’s mission, “Acting to End Racism: Pursuing Equity through Policy.”[2]

  • The National Juvenile Justice Network is hosting several events throughout the month:
  • Tuesday, Oct. 12th 3:00-4:30 PM ET “Treat Kids as Kids: Stop the Adult Criminalization of Youth.” This workshop will focus on policy changes that ensure youth are not treated like adults, including ending youth interrogations, direct file reform, and repealing Juvenile Life Without Parole laws.
  • Monday, Oct. 18th 3:00-4:30 PM ET “Care Not Cages: Invest in Families and Community.” This workshop will focus on how states have begun closing youth prisons, ending contracts with for-profit residential treatment centers, and committed to reducing use of congregate care.
  • Monday, Oct. 18th through Friday, October 22nd “Virtual Hill Visits.” Participants are encouraged to schedule meetings with their federal delegations to discuss important youth justice issues. NJJN will provide information/training on pending federal legislation and materials.

To register for workshops, please visit https://www.tfaforms.com/4926781.

  • The Texas Network of Youth Services is hosting a Town Hall on Tuesday, Oct. 19th from 3:00-4:00 PM CDT where they will “explore how youth-serving providers can prevent justice involvement and best support young people involved in the juvenile justice system.” For information and to RSVP, please visit http://tnoys.org/events/.
  • Support legislation aimed at reinvesting in America’s Youth. As part of his Fiscal Year 2022 budget, President Biden proposed $800 million for juvenile justice and youth reentry programs. If passed, this would be the highest allocation in the history of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Protection Act.[3] Contact your Members of Congress and demand they pass a budget that adequately addresses the needs of our children.

Now more than ever, we must make our voices heard to protect and advocate for our children. Please join us during this #YJAM to do just that.

[1] https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/presidential-actions/2021/09/30/a-proclamation-on-national-youth-justice-action-month-2021/

[2] https://www.tfaforms.com/4926781

[3] https://www.juvjustice.org/blog/1339

October is for Youth Justice Awareness Month

October is Youth Justice Awareness Month. With that in mind, the entries for this month will focus primarily on issues related to the juvenile justice system. The following post offers a brief discussion on the right to counsel in juvenile delinquency proceedings.

In 1967, the Supreme Court recognized juveniles’ right to Due Process under the 14th Amendment in the landmark case In re Gault. This decision granted juvenile defendants many of the same due process rights afforded to adults, including the right to formal notification of the charges against them, the right against self-incrimination, the right to confront witnesses, and the right to counsel. While this was a huge victory for children and child’s rights advocates, the reality of the situation is decidedly less triumphant.

In most cases, the right to counsel “kicks in” just prior to the child’s initial detention hearing; at this point, the child and their parents are notified of their right to counsel and the child is appointed an attorney if the child is determined indigent. However, this is not the child’s first point of contact with the juvenile justice system—that would be when the child is first taken into custody. This is a critical point for the child, as things can potentially go very wrong if they do not have access to counsel at this early stage. Research has shown that children are far more susceptible to coercion than adults, so it is likely that a child may offer incriminating evidence upon being questioned, irrespective of their guilt or innocence. Furthermore, children typically lack a thorough (or in many cases, even cursory) understanding of how the justice system works, so it is imperative they have an advisor at every stage of the process to ensure their rights are protected.

To illustrate this point, one need only look to Fare v. Michael C. (1979), where the Supreme Court established that a juvenile’s right to counsel must be explicitly invoked. In this case, the child’s request to see their probation officer (a trusted adult) was deemed insufficient to invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, and therefore the child’s statements made during police interrogation were all admissible in court. But how can we expect children to know precisely whom to ask for help, and when? How are children supposed to know the right things to say, or not to say, when most adults in similar positions are equally unaware? The justice system is complex and the children who find themselves within it are often under a great deal of stress—not only from the experience itself, but also from outside influences such as their parents, police, prosecutors, and even judges. 

Furthermore, the notion that a child can waive their constitutional rights—in particular the right to counsel—is ludicrous, and such waivers should be per se unallowable. The decision giving juveniles the right to counsel in Gault was predicated on due process considerations, rather than the right to counsel guaranteed by the 6th Amendment. While an adult’s right to waive counsel in criminal proceedings arises out of the 6th Amendment, due process under the 14th Amendment does not necessitate the same result for juveniles. In fact, given the developmental differences between children and adults, it would be clearly out of line with due process considerations to allow juveniles to waive their right to counsel. The chances of obtaining a “voluntary,” “knowing” and “intelligent” waiver (as is required by law) from a child are severely diminished in consideration of the various stressors the child faces while in contact with the system. This, combined with the fact of the still-developing adolescent brain and compounded by the vital role of counsel in juvenile proceedings, make waiver of the right to representation totally inappropriate in these cases.

 If a child under these circumstances can waive their right to counsel, how can any of their other constitutional rights be guaranteed? Without an inalienable right to representation in delinquency proceedings, the due process considerations extended to juveniles in Gault are effectively meaningless. Therefore, the right to counsel should activate automatically and inviolably at the earliest stage possible to ensure that a child’s rights are protected throughout the entire juvenile justice process.

For a more thorough discussion on this topic, see:

Gary G. Strieker, Waiver of Constitutional Rights by Minors: A Question of Law or Fact, 19 Hastings L.J. 223 (1967). Available at: https://repository.uchastings.edu/hastings_law_journal/vol19/iss1/9

Ellen Marrus, Gault, 40 Years Later: Are We There Yet?, 44 Criminal Law Bulletin 413 (2008), U of Houston Law Center No. 2014-A-51. Available at: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2450171