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NCCU Juvenile Justice Institute to Host Conference on School-to-Prison Pipeline

Published: Wednesday, January 28, 2015

DURHAM, N.C.—Retired U.S. Bureau of Prisons warden Carlyle I. Holder will be the keynote speaker at the School-to-Prison Pipeline conference that takes place Friday and Saturday, Jan. 30 and 31, 2015, at North Carolina Central University.

Others participating in the conference include Mark Trustin, NCCU School of Law adjunct professor whose law practice is focused on suspension and expulsion cases; Dr. Bert L’Homme, superintendent of Durham Public Schools; and N.C. Chief District Court Judge Marcia H. Morey.

Holder, keynote speaker for the event, retired after more than 20 years of government service to found Correctional Management and Communications in Clermont, Fla., where he now serves as chief executive officer. He is also president of the National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice.

“School-to-prison pipeline” is a term that describes a pattern in which students who are expelled or suspended from school are more likely to wind up in jail or prison within a few years.

“Statistics show that a child suspended one time from school is much more likely to be suspended again, and then becomes much more likely to fail, to drop out of school and, eventually, to become involved in criminal activities,” said Trustin, who serves as board member of Youth Justice NC, a co-sponsor of the conference.

“In 15 years of doing this work, I can count on one had the number of kids who really intended to do harm when they first got in trouble and got kicked out of school,” Trustin added. “More likely, it’s for something minor, like refusing to obey a teacher.”

Arnold Dennis, director of NCCU’s Juvenile Justice Institute, said zero-tolerance policies enacted following the Columbine school shooting of 1999 made long-term suspensions and expulsions common, even for small infractions.

“Kids are winding up in prison stemming from incidents that should have been handled by the school,” Dennis says.

Such policies hit hardest on poor and minority communities, with African-American males the most common group affected, he added.

The U.S. Department of Justice has reported that African-American students are suspended and expelled at a rate three times greater than white students, and that black and Latino students account for nearly three-quarters of referrals to law enforcement.

In general, African-American students are more likely to be punished for subjective offenses such as misbehaving in class, while white students are more often suspended for objective offenses, like drug possession.

The conference begins Friday, Jan. 29, at 4:30 with a dramatic reading depicting the voices of teens, teachers, court officers and prison guards in the atrium of NCCU’s Michaux School of Education. The reading is presented by Hidden Voices, a nonprofit agency that uses interactive exhibits to engage audiences and explore issues of concern to underrepresented communities.

“This performance, ‘None of the Above,’ explores the intersection of race, poverty, educational policies, and incarceration through the voices of those most affected,” said Kathy Williams, associate director for the Hillsborough, NC-based nonprofit.

On Saturday, Jan. 30, criminal justice practitioners and educators will gather for Holder’s keynote speech and two discussion panels from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in NCCU’s Criminal Justice Building auditorium.

For details, contact Arnold Dennis, director of NCCU’s Juvenile Justice Institute, at adennis@nccu.edu or 919-530-7092.

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