The School to Prison Pipeline must be broken. Too many of our young people, especially youth of color from low-income communities, are pushed out of school and into the juvenile justice system, which becomes a track for adult prisons and incarceration.
Acute monetary and human costs accrue by pushing youth out of our educational institutions and into the prison system. It costs $78,000 a year to keep a young person in prison in Illinois. These funds could be better spent on public grade school and high school education, on counseling, and on strategies to set our young people onto a path to college and productive work.
We need community based interventions, including restorative justice programs, that channel youth toward non-violent conflict resolution, counseling, mentoring and job training, while acknowledging the most dangerous offenders belong in prison and not on the streets of our communities.
Job creation, training and reentry programs like St. Leonards. Treatment programs for drug and alcohol addictions when necessary, mental health counseling services when necessary and changing various “zero tolerance” policies that unfairly push youth towards juvenile detention.