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Gulf Coast Coalition Wants More Students in School and Fewer in Detention Centers

By Rhonda Miller | Published 13 Apr 2012 12:05am | comments

A coalition of community groups on the Gulf Coast says it’s time to stop pushing young people into detention centers when they’re better off in school.  MPB’s Rhonda Miller reports the coalition took its message to the streets last night to help break down the school-to-prison pipeline.

"...I can’t learn a thing in detention..."

Seventeen-year-old Mattie Guidroz of Gulfport says she didn’t learn much in detention.  She was having trouble at home and used to get in fights at Peeples Middle School in Jackson. She got sent to juvenile detention in Hinds County.

"The work was like really easy. They give you something and tell you to do it, you do it and you just go do whatever you want to do. Play a game, go outside to recess, do whatever. It wasn’t anything like school."

She says since she moved in with her adopted family in Gulfport, she’s getting A's and B’s at  West Harrison High School.

She’s one of about 40 children and adults marching with the STEPS Coalition down Main Street in Biloxi to the Harrison County Juvenile Detention Center.  

"...Books not bars...Books not bars..."

The message of "Books Not Bars" is that taking kids out of school and putting them into the criminal justice system creates a school-to-prison pipeline that does more harm than good.

Darlene Day says the time her 14-year-old twin sons spent in a detention center gave them a label they couldn’t shake with one of the school administrators.

"Everything they did in the past, the very first day, he brung it back from one school year to the next school year. So as of this point, neither one of my boys goes to the Harrison County School District."

Sharon Hanshaw is with Coastal Women for Change, a group that mentors young people in detention centers.  

"We totally believe these children do not belong in a detention center because they’re not learning there. No one is talking to them there.It’s like a holding cell."

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s website, Mississippi is one of four states, along with Alabama, Florida and Louisiana, where children are most at risk of dropping out of school or ending up in the juvenile justice system.

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