School & Community Programs serve as alternative to “Pipeline to Prison”

Many U.S. school aged students are known for the occasional classroom disruptions: making jokes, passing love notes, picking on other students and sadly, even telling-off a teacher; one would be misinformed to believe otherwise. However, while these disruptions are considered “normal student behavior,” school officials see it differently and that difference is cause for police patrolling school grounds.

In 2010, there were 20,400 school age youths arrested which represents about 30 percent of all arrests that year. Based on the Texas Appleseed report, “Working to Shut Off the Pipeline to Prison” by Hilgers, King and Bryce, the problem with sending this many students through the juvenile justice system is the impact it has on the students long term. In fact, the report suggests that adult criminal behavior among young people often stems from school based youthful misbehavior that left youth in the juvenile justice system.

The statistics on school age youth arrests is enough for any community to be concerned. Even Texas school officials agree the pipeline from the school disciplinary system to prison is evident. However, while many agree that there is a problem, options to resolve the issue have been less clear. However, some community-based organizations are focusing on training as a way to prevent these youth from being pulled into the pipeline to prison. In Austin, The Council on At-Risk Youth (CARY), a community-based organization, promotes safe schools and safe communities by providing anger management training, social skills, and parental training support groups. Training is definitely an important component of helping students stay out of trouble.

ReadyToWork® believes that in addition to training, providing students with exposure to internships, part-time or after school jobs, volunteer activities, and other opportunities to better themselves will help them recognize the importance of maintaining a “clean record” and provide them with constructive ways to utilize their youthful energy and time.

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