Targeted for cages not classrooms, Part III

Separate and unequal school punishment

Jayne Matthews Hopson | 4/18/2014, 8:30 a.m.
Michelle Alexander, an associate professor of law at Ohio State University is the author of “The New Jim Crow: Mass ...

Often if they go to the juvenile system they later graduate to the adult system, and once you’re released form the adult system you’re branded for life. You have a criminal record that will follow you for the rest of your life, authorizing legal discrimination against you in employment, housing, access to education, public benefits.

But even if as a young person you go to [juvenile] hall and are released without a criminal record, you will be scarred by that experience of incarceration. And as much as we like to think of juvenile detention as not prison, the reality is that it is experienced as prison for the young people who are there.

And that experience of being locked-up or shamed and stigmatized, treated like the embodiment of a problem, rather than as a young person who is in need of help, that experience scars young people for life, and fundamentally changes the way they view themselves and their place in our society.

We have got to abolish these prisons as we know them and be much more creative and compassionate and constructive and intentional about how we intervene in the lives of young people who are struggling and making serious or not-so-serious mistakes.

Jayne Matthews Hopson writes about education matters because “only the educated are free.”