More Disheartening News from Incarceration Nation

Saturday, August 11th, 2012

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, juvenile authorities in Meridian, Mississippi, have been following a policy in which children suspended from school, even for minor infractions, find themselves being incarcerated:

The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division has released investigative findings determining that children in predominantly black Meridian, Miss. have had their constitutional rights violated by theLauderdale County Youth Court, the Meridian Police Department, and the Mississippi Division of Youth Services in what civil rights investigators allege is a school to prison pipeline with even dress code violations resulting in incarceration.

The report declares:

“The system established by the City of Meridian, Lauderdale County, and DYS to incarcerate children for school suspensions ‘shocks the conscience,’ resulting in the incarceration of children for alleged ‘offenses’ such as dress code violations, flatulence, profanity, and disrespect.”

The report continues:

“By policy and practice, [the Meridian Police Department] MPD automatically arrests all students referred to MPD by the District. The children arrested by MPD are then sent to the County juvenile justice system, where existing due process protections are illusory and inadequate. The Youth Court places children on probation, and the terms of the probation set by the Youth Court and DYS require children on probation to serve any suspensions from school incarcerated in the juvenile detention center.”

Because Meridian has a black population of about 62 percent, it is almost inevitable that many of the adults involved in this outrage also are black, and I have doubts that it is a situation of whites automatically victimizing blacks. Instead, this seems to be yet another example of the Pavlovian response of American authorities to see incarceration as a first option for just about everything. Nonetheless, as Radley has demonstrated in his articles about Cory Maye and fraudulent forensics by prosecutors in Mississippi, little has changed in the Magnolia State from the days when jurors acquitted the murderers of Emmett Till because they didn’t believe a white person should be punished for murdering someone who was black.

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35 Responses to “More Disheartening News from Incarceration Nation”

  1. #1 |  karl | 

    Mere speculation on my part (there’s nothing in the link to support my suspicion), but would it surprise any Agitator readers if we find that the jails these kids were sent to were “private” entities partly owned or managed by the very authorities who instituted this shameful practice?

    For the record, I’d rather be wrong about this.

  2. #2 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 

    If I were the parent of one of these ‘delinquents’, I would be suing everybody in sight … and pricing beachfront property. Each and every official nitwit involved in this deservers to be jailed and pauperized. Pity it won’t happen.

  3. #3 |  croaker | 

    @1 Already happened once in PA, and two judges got sent to PMITAP. I would not be surprised to find that to be the case here.

  4. #4 |  liberranter | 

    @#1: Your speculation is probably correct.

    @#2: The biggest problem with suing agents of the State is that the money would come out of the already overburdened taxpayers’ hides. This is why I’m a very strong advocate of abolishing immunity in these cases. Let the criminal scumbags who commit these atrocities pay restitution to their victims OUT OF THEIR OWN POCKETS. If that means losing their homes, their property, or the clothes off their backs, so be it. The taxpaying public should NEVER have to suffer for crimes committed under the color of authority.

  5. #5 |  Charlie O | 

    Ah Meridian. Birthplace and original home of my parents.

  6. #6 |  William Anderson | 

    Guys, I was wondering the same thing regarding the for-profit prisons. I did not say anything in the post, but I was thinking it.

  7. #7 |  Let's Just Throw Black Kids in Jail Like It's Not a Big Deal | The Agitator | 

    [...] « More Disheartening News from Incarceration Nation [...]

  8. #8 |  Belle Waring | 

    I’d be willing to bet the public schools are 100% black, with the white minority going to “church’ schools, as is the norm for the re-segregated South. And the start of the pipeline was in the public schools. Let’s call a spade a spade and just go on ahead and say this one was racism. Don’t let fear of the libertarian commentariat cause you to pussyfoot around with the ‘black employees at the schools and jails’ William! Racism. That’s why you didn’t say anything about the for-profit prisons, too, because it would seem to vilify titans of commerce. Radley’s commenters are open-minded folk, and when you’ve got the facts on your side they are more than willing to believe the State has screwed people over in some new corrupt way, or even an old-fashioned racist way. Racism! See how freeing that was! I feel…shit, I still feel terrible, because that was depressing and those children were horribly mistreated. Well, one doesn’t come to the Agitator for smiles.

  9. #9 |  Jason | 

    Ok, I’m gonna comment on this since I’m a native Mississippian and still reside here.

    1. Meridian is a city predominately black population. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meridian,_Mississippi

    2. I don’t agree with with MPS is doing, but I’d be willing to bet that it’s better than what Jackson Public Schools are doing (JPS), which is nothing. JPS has the worse school system in the state. Again, still predominately black, but they are limited in what they can do. (Not saying it’s right, but some of the corrective measures have to be used, but to what extent, is up to each district).

    3. The separation of white school children and black school children does still exists in districts that are dominated by blacks. Look at the Mississippi Delta. This is the poorest part of the state, very little job creation and growth, and the primary agriculture part of the state. There are “private Christian academies” throughout the Delta, Jackson, and other parts of the state. Again, it a choice. The folks are paying twice for an education system. Paying local taxes and then paying tuition. But if they can afford it, who am to say what’s right or wrong for them choose in their education for their children?

    4. Finally, I went to a good school district growing up with a decent mixture of white and black. I have since graduated and moved to another school district in the state with about the same ratio. Everyone gets along and there isn’t too many complaints, but there will always be issues on race in Mississippi (and the greater South). Look at the situation in the Memphis, TN/Shelby County. They residents recently voted to merge with the county school system. County residents have voted to create their school districts outside the county system. Court battles are going to ensure and so forth, but it will be an interesting fight. And all I’m gonna say is: thank God there is a state line. I wouldn’t send my kids to Memphis Public Schools. They’ve gone down hill since the late 80s. The white flight out of Memphis really sped up in the 90s, and the out lying areas and counties have profited from it. Just stating fact. Not being a racist.

  10. #10 |  el coronado | 

    Radley’s commenters may be “open-minded folk”, Belle, Darlin’, but you sure as hell ain’t. As you just admitted, you don’t actually *know* jack shit about the makeup of Meridien public schools and their staff/admin, (“I’m willing to bet…”) but you didn’t let that stop you for a second. Just like any good closed-minded, mind-numbed hardcore leftwing robot would, you saw a situation about which – again – you don’t actually KNOW a damn thing, (“it’s the norm for those inbred southern peckerwood crackers. A damn shame I can’t be bothered with actual citations – I can just _sense_ these things.”) you cried “racism!” and let slip the hounds of….whatever agenda it is you’re selling. Sure ain’t Libertarianism, is it.

  11. #11 |  ikanakattara | 

    El coronado, here are the statistics on the Meridian public school district.

    http://nces.ed.gov/ccd/schoolsearch/school_list.asp?Search=1&DistrictID=2802910

    Run the numbers for yourself. Belle is right.

  12. #12 |  Nancy Lebovitz | 

    I’ll use milder language than el coronado, but it’s absolutely true that both the original post and Belle’s comment are guessing about a racial angle– it may be possible to find out what color the children and adults involved actually were. (I say “may” because a little quick research didn’t turn up an answer for the teenagers incarcerated in the Pennsylvania scandal.)

    There’s a prejudice involved that doesn’t get much attention– prejudice against young people.

  13. #13 |  Jeff | 

    @ #8 and #9

    Well, the title of the linked article is: “Feds: Authorities in Meridian, Miss. Violated Rights of Black Children”

    and in the article it does say: “…the Justice Department alleges that mostly African American children and children with disabilities are impacted by the unconstitutional policies.”

    So I don’t think it is really necessary to guess about “a racial angle” as you put it. Either way, I’m confused why suggesting as such would make you angry. Of course we all know what a “hardcore leftwing robot” rag that nefarious Yahoo! News is, so i guess it could be their fault.

  14. #14 |  PersonFromPorlock | 

    FWIW, a cursory check shows that Meridian has a white Republican mayor and sends (mostly) Republicans to both the state and federal legislatures. That doesn’t automatically make this a racial issue but it’s damned uncomfortable for me as a conservative.

  15. #15 |  William Anderson | 

    To Belle Waring:

    I did not specify race because I didn’t know. Furthermore, I do not know if there are white-only Christian schools there. I have two adopted sons that are black, and one of them attends a Christian school here. I don’t appreciate your implication that I am a racist, because that also implies I hate my sons, which does not gain a nice response from me.

    I have done a Google search and have found Christian schools in Meridian that do have black students. There is an issue of causality that people often don’t address in that many of the public schools have real problems and people — white and black — don’t want to have their children put into such a situation. We can look at history and surmise that part of the problem is due to racism and Jim Crow policies over time, and some of it has been the development of a predatory and violent youth culture that infects black and white children.

    We can point fingers and lay blame, and certainly much should be laid at the feet of past policies imposed by whites, nonetheless people like Walter Williams and Thomas Sowell, both of whom grew up in segregated situations, point out that black communities in their youth were not ruled by a predatory culture, were law-abiding, and the schools, while deliberately underfunded by whites, nonetheless produced good students. If present problems were due solely to white racism, then they would have been worse when government policies clearly supported racism.

    Now to address your accusation that I was quiet on the issue of for-profit prisons because I support all private enterprise, or something like that. The modern system of mass incarceration PLUS the presence of private, for-profit prisons, is an obvious example of the worst of moral hazard. I have written elsewhere of my disgust of seeing the private prison industry lobby against easing of draconian drug laws because it would hurt their own bottom line. As I see it, that is immoral and I have made that clear.

    The reason I did not mention the private prison angle was because I did not know if they existed there, or any of the connections between the authorities and private prisons. I simply don’t know, and if I don’t have that information, I am not going to speak as though I do.

    Your post made a number of assumptions about me that are not true. Now, when someone like me posts pieces that have opinion, I expect people who are ignorant about my positions and me to make the kind of posts you did. That comes with the territory.

    Nonetheless, the comment you made, in the end, says nothing about me, but it says plenty about you.

  16. #16 |  Helmut O' Hooligan | 

    You can be incarcerated for flatulence now? I really wish this story was from the onion.

    Whether this outrage stems from state repression or the unholy alliance between government and private “correctional” corporations it is disgusting. With that being said, this issue in Meriden sounds a hell of a lot like the Pennsylvania case that another commenter referred to. When the priorities of courts become intertwined with the interests of private corporations, we should call this arrangement by its proper name: fascism.

  17. #17 |  Stanely Ketchel, Middleweight | 

    Wait a second, look at this thing from a social utility viewpoint. If you don’t incarcerate them when they’re little, how will they ever become institutionalized?

    It’s all a matter of proper training. Take a dumb slug like George W. Bush and send him to Phillips Andover, Yale, and Harvard Business School, and you end up with President of the United States, although not necessarily a standout.

    Take some half-way gifted kid from a shithole like Meridian, Mississippi, stick him in jail, get him raped a little bit and before long you have got a real sociopath on your hands.

    Depends on the end-product you’re looking for.

  18. #18 |  Jeff | 

    “Nonetheless, as Radley has demonstrated in his articles about Cory Maye and fraudulent forensics by prosecutors in Mississippi, little has changed in the Magnolia State from the days when jurors acquitted the murderers of Emmett Till because they didn’t believe a white person should be punished for murdering someone who was black.”

    Wow….Overstate much?

  19. #19 |  mad libertarian guy | 

    @ William

    You should NEVER let your lack of knowledge of a situation allow you to keep yourself from making racism charges. That’s . . . racism. Especially when it’s those dirty, inbred, uneducated, tea bagging, rat fucker southerners we’re talking about.

    Or something.

  20. #20 |  croaker | 

    @9 That’s because it wasn’t racial. It was purely money. I have family in that area and they had eyes on the situation. It was also not fully a school-to-jail pipeline in PA as it appears to be in MS.

  21. #21 |  Nancy Lebovitz | 

    The racial angle I was talking about was whether there are black adults involved in this atrocity. It wouldn’t surprise me if there are some police or low-level school administrators trying to keep their jobs, but we don’t know the race of the people making the main decisions.

    croaker, I’d be grateful for any details you want to post.

  22. #22 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 

    Nancy Lebovitz,

    I think that there is a substrata of racism in this mess, just not as simple as Al “The Democrat Party’s Lawn Jockey” Sharpton would like you to think.

    The public schools of this nation have, for decades, been run according to reliable Leftwing PC principles. And if you take a good long look at said principles, you will (I think) come to the uneasy realization that the Liberal Elite consider the great majority of people stupid, ignorant, education-proof trolls, and that they think of dark-hued persons as all that and twice on Thursdays. They will acknowledge some rare exceptions, provided that said exceptions agree with them on any subject of substance. But they think most people are, at best, one step above the Apes. And they think that dark people are mostly a half-step back of the majority. They may not come out and say any of this, but that is how they act.

    This policy was put in place because the policy makers, and the people the policy makers desire to impress, think of Black children as the larval form of criminals. They were treated like criminals because in the eyes of the political class they are criminal until proven to be exceptions.

    The Democrats have consistently treated Blacks as lesser, from the time of the Civil War onwards. The Republicans are frequently not a lot better, but they are better more often than the supposed champions of civil rights.

  23. #23 |  Nancy Lebovitz | 

    C. S. P., which party has been leading the “tough on crime” initiatives? Which party opposed Jim Crow?

    I’m not sure which party is more responsible for the condition of the schools, or for black children (especially black boys, I think) being treated as disposable.

    From the article: “About 62 percent of Meridian’s population is African American, and the Justice Department alleges that mostly African American children and children with disabilities are impacted by the unconstitutional policies.”

    So, not all the children being jailed are black.

  24. #24 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 

    Nancy Lebovitz,

    Both parties are guilty of being “tough on crime” when they need to pander. “Lawr ‘n Owda” is what’s left of the Rule of Law when the Political Class (which naturally hates the idea that the :aw applied to THEM) gets done with it. And the Political Class has at the very least a major foothold in both parties.

    As for “Jim Crow”; that was an artifact of the ruling party of the South from post reconstruction to the Civil Rights era. Which is to say, the Democrat Party. Democrats were the backbone of the second KKK, as they had been of the first and of the confederacy. I’m not saying that the Republican Party consists, or ever consisted, of racially enlightened Cherubs. But the selling of the Democrat Party as the Party of Equality and Racial Enlightenment belongs in the PR bullsh*t hall of fame. The Democrat Party has pursued a policy of differentiating between people according to the color of their skins since its modern founding in 1828.

  25. #25 |  William Anderson | 

    A couple things. First, I don’t think I have overstated the seriousness of the “justice” situation in Mississippi. Read Radley’s articles in Reason on the Cory Maye case and then if you come to the conclusion that there is no outright racism in the system, then that is your choice. Also, the use of outright fraudulent “experts” such as Steven Hayne and Michael West is every bit as outrageous, in my view, as what happened in the Emmett Till trial. This was not a good faith effort on behalf of prosecutors; this was fraud and deliberate fraud.

    As for racial attitudes, Jim Crow and Progressives, even the Progressives from the North were extremely racist in their views. Read Margaret Sanger and you will see what I mean. Her racial views have been whitewashed, to say the least.

    It is true, however, that Southern Progressives were the worst offenders. C. Vann Woodward goes out of his way to praise the economic views of people like South Carolina U.S. Sen. Ben “Pitchfork” Tillman even as he is puzzled that someone who was (in his opinion) so economically enlightened could be such a vicious racist.

  26. #26 |  Nancy Lebovitz | 

    My impression is that the Republicans initiated “tough on crime” and the Democrats followed.

    Also, southern Democrats installed Jim Crow, and other Democrats (mostly northern, I think) overthrew it. Parties don’t have eternal natures, and it probably isn’t worth going back too far if you want to understand what’s going on with a party now.

  27. #27 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    @16 – “State repression”.

    Ah yes, that’d be devolving the system locally to schools, who make their own decisions on this. Rather than having a sensible set of rules to follow.

    And I see, you’re a Fachist then, given your unconditional support for companies over people (and hence propping up the corporate capitalist system)? Well, there we go!

  28. #28 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 

    Nancy Lebovitz,

    More Republicans than Democrats, and a higher percentage of Republicans than Democrats, voted for the Civil Rights act of 1964. I won’t deny that there have been some genuinely egalitarian Democrats, but the Party was for Racial discrimination a la Jim Crow pretty much up to the very moment that it became for Racial discrimination a la the likes of Al Sharpton.

    The Democrats’ claim to be the defenders of the underprivileged is an act of such massive hubris that it takes my breath away. They are elitists. They believe that the better sorts of people should run things, and that the masses should do what they are told. It is apparent from how they treat people as categories rather than individuals. It is apparent in the way they have contempt for laws, rules, and common decency as such might apply to them.

    There is a much cleaner and more honest populist side to the Democrat Party, but that side has not had a decisive say since Harry Truman. I keep hoping that the populists will get sick of being duped by the Political Class Twits, and make a real fight for the soul of the party, just as I hope that the small government conservatives will get some fire in their bellies and fight the RINOs. I hope to live to see the day that there is an actual faction fight on the floor of a national convention again.

    I also hope that one day the African-Americans that he has lived off of for decades will realize what a parasite Al Sharpton is. I probably shouldn’t hope that they use him like a wishbone, but I do.

  29. #29 |  Nancy Lebovitz | 

    Thanks for causing me to look up the congressional votes on the Civil Rights Act.

    Both the northern Rs and Ds were strongly in favor, with the percentage of Ds being higher. Southern Rs and Ds were against, but had some Ds (just a few, but there were no Rs at all) in favor.

    It looks to me as though rather little about the character of the parties at the time can be deduced from this.

    However, I’m not seeing where you get that more Republicans voted for the Civil Rights Act– it looks to me as though the Democrats come out ahead for everything for the cloture vote.

  30. #30 |  Nancy Lebovitz | 

    Oops– everything except for the cloture vote.

  31. #31 |  Dana Gower | 

    It always annoys me that, as soon as you say Mississippi, you pretty much have permission to say any racist, stupid thing you feel like.
    I don’t think anyone disagrees that incarceration of juveniles for, basically, non-crimes is a bad idea.
    But for those who want to jump on the dump-on-Mississippi bandwagon, the article clearly states that about 62 percent of the population is black. I don’t know the demographics of how blacks are represented on the police force, the judiciary or city government — and neither do you — but I would think they are appropriately represented as city voters, which means they probably have a good deal to say about what is going on in their city.
    As for connecting totally unrelated cases to Cory Maye, that just shows a total lack of even trying to be reasonable. Yes, Cory Maye got the short end of the stick all the way around, but racism wasn’t a major factor. The person who was killed happened to be the very-popular (even among the city’s black population) son of the police chief. Cory Maye (I believe this is right, ask Radley for sure) wasn’t a longtime resident of the town. His family, concerned about having a public defender, hired a highly-outmatched attorney (who is black). Because the trial was moved (originally at the request of his attorney), the very good local newspaper wasn’t able to cover the trial. The trial didn’t receive extensive coverage in the newspaper in the county where the trial was held because it had no local interest. I don’t know the makeup of the jury, but there were enough blacks to cause a mistrial had they voted on a purely racial basis. It was a miracle Radley found the story and looked into it. But to say Cory Maye was convicted due to racism is stupid. And to compare his trial to anything else, including youth court policies in Meridian, is just plain dumb.

  32. #32 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 

    Nancy Lebovitz,

    I’ll take your word for it. I’ve known you for some years (Hi, Button Lady). I still think there’s a disturbing unity of policy between the old KKK Democrats (who wanted people treated differently according to the color of their skins) and the current crop (who still want people etc. etc.). I also, frankly, see far too much “they’re poor inner city blacks, we can’t expect much from them” from all sides.

    And I think this idiocy in Meridian arises from that (racist) lack of expectation.

  33. #33 |  Nancy Lebovitz | 

    #32 | C. S. P. Schofield,

    Hi back. It’s been a while since we’ve met in person….

    This isn’t a matter of taking my word, since the details of history and politics aren’t my strong points– all I did was spend a little time going over a wikipedia page.

    I was hoping that someone would check my work.

  34. #34 |  theCL Report: Governments Are Out Of Control | 

    [...] More Disheartening News from Incarceration Nation [...]

  35. #35 |  Dewey Boyd | 

    It does not suprise me that such a matter as this in Meridian has come to light …It is good that it has… The same type situation had recently been uncovered in the State of Pennsylvania, where two Judges and the contractor who built the private prison conspired to send children to these facilities for profit… The last I heard on that at least one of the Judges in the Pennsylvania case was sentenced to 28 years… lets see what happens there in Meridian and who’s involved…. SMFH

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