If you grew up in Meridian, Mississippi, you could be sent to a juvenile detention facility for wearing the wrong color blue to school. That’s just one shocking incident from a Politico story about a “school-to-prison” pipeline that has subjected many American teenagers to barbarous conditions—sometimes for “violations” like walking to school instead of taking the bus.And while juvenile facilities are less plagued by the kind of sexual assault that sadly has become routine among adult prison populations, they are far from safe environments. Here’s what happened to one teenager placed in juvenile correction and caught up in a riot:
Mike had suffered brain damage when the violence erupted in February 2010, only about four months after he entered Walnut Grove at age 19. His injuries left him with the cognitive abilities of a 2-year-old. Several other youths were stabbed during the incident. Mike’s cellmate was stabbed in the head. A dozen other people were hospitalized.
Some of the scandals reported here have been corrected, but not all of them. Stories like this are a shocking reminder that criminal justice reform should be a top priority for the country—and, fortunately, leaders in both parties are now actively working on it. Republican state legislatures have already gotten key reforms passed, and national politicians have joined in. Activists devoted to this cause are now pushing against an open door, and if they can keep pushing, abuses like the ones mentioned above could be put squarely behind us.