Vera on the Hill

Michael Jacobson submits testimony on the school-to-prison pipeline
Dec 12, 2012

Michael Jacobson, Vera’s president and director, submits testimony today at a hearing titled “Ending the School-to-Prison Pipeline,” held by the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights, chaired by Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois. The hearing comes as there is emerging public debate about zero-tolerance school discipline policies and the increasing involvement of law enforcement in schools. Vera’s Center on Youth Justice is conducting a study of the long-term effects of these policies to see whether they push youth toward antisocial and criminal behavior and justice system involvement—a trajectory known as the “school-to-prison pipeline.”

"While research showing a direct relationship between severe school discipline policies and justice system involvement is limited, there is clear evidence that discipline policies can have an effect on educational achievement, commitment to school, and other factors that are associated with future criminal behavior," Jacobson wrote. "There is also research that demonstrates how academic failure—in particular dropping out of high school—serves as a link between the two."

Juvenile justice experts and education specialists have been tracking this growing phenomenon for some time. It emerged in the mainstream media—and in Vera’s blog—in August 2012 when the U.S. Justice Department (DOJ) released findings of an investigation showing that the Meridian, Mississippi, school district was in violation of students’ constitutional rights through the use of these policies, which disproportionately affected African American youth and those with disabilities. In October, the DOJ sued Meridian and Lauderdale County, Mississippi for failure to address the problem.