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New Report Examines School-to-Prison Pipeline in Chicago and Recommends Alternatives

CHICAGO – Because public schools in Chicago too often rely on police arrests to resolve discipline problems, the schools have become the gateway for thousands of youth to enter the juvenile and adult criminal justice systems, according to a new report by advocates of restorative justice.

Project NIA’s research found there were 5,574 school-based arrests of juveniles on Chicago Public School (CPS) properties, accounting for about one of every five juvenile arrests in the city for all of 2010. “Policing Chicago Public Schools:  A Gateway to the School-to-Prison Pipeline” examines arrest data obtained from the Chicago Police Department; notes the increased presence of cameras and police inside schools; and is critical of the lack of accountability and public information about arrests and discipline in each school building.

“Our purpose in writing this report is to ensure that the public is informed about the scope and extent of policing in Chicago Public Schools,” the report states. “We hope that this will galvanize educators, parents, students, policymakers and community members to advocate for a dramatic decrease of CPS’s reliance on law enforcement to address school discipline issues. 

“Instead, we would like to see an increase in the use of restorative justice, which is an effective approach, to respond to student misbehavior in our schools,” according to the report authored by Mariam Kaba, founding director of Project NIA, and Frank Edwards, a researcher and volunteer with Project NIA.

Other findings and from the report:

  • Mirroring the general trend of disproportionate minority contact within the juvenile justice system, Black youth accounted for 74 percent of school-based arrests, and 22.5 percent of youth arrested were Latino. The enrollment of Chicago schools in was 45 percent Black and 41 percent Latino.
  • About 27 percent of the school-based arrests of those under age 20 were for simple battery was the leading category for arrests, suggesting a significant number of students were arrested for fighting.
  • New York City’s “Student Safety Act,” which requires increased accountability and transparency about police activity in schools should be replicated in Chicago and CPS should be required to report more information to the public about arrests and how discipline is enforced in each school.
  • Student privacy should be protected, and law enforcement agencies and schools should not be required to exchange more information about individual students with discipline issues or who come in contact with police.

Project NIA is a non-profit with a long-term goal of ending youth incarceration and promotes the use of restorative and transformative practices with an emphasis on community-based alternatives to incarceration.

For more information about Project NIA, go to:  http://www.project-nia.org/home.php

Download “Policing Chicago Public Schools:  A Gateway to the School-to-Prison Pipeline” here:  http://policeinschools.files.wordpress.com/2011/12/policing-chicago-public-schools-final2.pdf