Students Work to Change School to Prison Pipeline

Posted by michael on Mar 18, 2015

(Memphis – Commercial Appeal) — Students in Memphis said young people going from high school to jail is too often the reality in their neighborhoods.

On Tuesday, more than one dozen students at BRIDGES discussed putting together a plan to keep kids out of prison.

“They identified this as an issue in their community that they want to address,” Mahal Burr, the BRIDGES community action coordinator, said.

Organizers call it the school to prison pipeline.

“Instead of pulling our students into the educational system, it is pushing them out into the prison system,” Montez Reed said.

Mid-South students worked to figure out how to create change and stop the cycle of young black people being locked up.

“My people — we make up about 15 percent of the population, but we make up over 60 percent of the incarceration rates,” Reed said.

Some students said it’s tough to succeed because there’s not much support.

Many participants expressed that schools often stereotype them because of their races.

“Our schools are set up like a prison. Almost where if the smallest infraction will get you sent out instead of being talked to or another solution. You’re automatically pushed out of the school,” Reed said.

“There’s no second chance opportunity. There’s immediate consequences,” Anita Norman said.

Instead of suspensions and expulsions, students thought there should be a youth jury, youth court, or peer mediation.

“You stay in school, you further your education, but you also squash the beef with the person, so it doesn’t reoccur,” Reed said.

Organizers admitted that young people in prison is an issue across the country, not just in Memphis.

Youth leaders said it was important to get the ball rolling and get the teenagers talking about the issues.

BRIDGES and the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center are taking the discussion to a bigger stage next Saturday, March 28, with a Juvenile Justice Conference. The event will be at Lemoyne Owen College from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.