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.
“[D]efendants engage in a pattern or practice of unlawful conduct through which they routinely and systematically arrest and incarcerate children, including for minor school rule infractions, without even the most basic procedural safeguards, and in violation of these children’s constitutional rights,” the DOJ’s 37-page complaint reads. Meridian’s years of systemic abuse punish youth “so arbitrarily and severely as to shock the conscience,” the complaint reads.
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