In some schools, counties, or even states, there is a direct school-to-prison pipeline. Students who, more times than not, are already struggling in school are sent into detention facilities, or detained at home, where they receive little or no quality education. Sierra Mannie investigated this idea, but with a more specific lense. She wrote an article for The Hechinger Report titled, ‘Chronically Absent: Is Quality Education Possible in Juvenile Detention in Mississippi?’ She started with one young man’s story, 19-year-old Jelin “Jay” McChristian. McChristian was held back in school multiple times and never finished 9th grade. By the time he was 17, he was in his second year of 9th grade. He was detained by the state and taken out of school. By the time he was released, it was summer and he would be starting 9th grade again, this being his third time.
Mannie wrote, “A 2006 Justice Policy Institute report, “The Dangers of Detention: The Impact of Incarcerating Youth in Detention and Other Secure Facilities,” says 43 percent of incarcerated youth nationally receiving remedial education services in detention did not go back to school once they got out, and another 16 percent went back to school but dropped out after five months.” These are more than just statistics, they show how these detention facilities impact students’ likelihood to graduate, or to continue their education at all.
In a letter from the Departments of Justice and Education, then-Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and then-Attorney General Eric Holder it was said that “For youth who are confined in juvenile-justice facilities, providing high-quality correctional education that is comparable to offerings in traditional public schools is one of the most powerful-and cost-effective levers we have to ensure that youth are successful once released and are able to avoid future contact with the justice system,” Selina Merrell, an education consultant for Mississippi detention facilities says that she has seen success, though, and it comes from one particular program: positive behaviour interventions and supports system, also known as PBIS.
On average it costs $153,300 a year to confine a single juvenile in the state of Mississippi, most of whom are rearrested within the next year. With PBIS, however, the likelihood of rearrest goes down significantly. McChristian never had to opportunity to be part of the PBIS program due to the detention centre he was in not using it. Some have said that this is due to the cost of the programme, however, in the long term, spending the money to educate kids, saves the state from spending money to redetain the students.
McChsritian dropped out after his release and is currently working independently to get his GED. He intends to go to Mississippi State to become a therapist.