When Ron started working at Horizon Detention Center in early October, he expected the Bronx facility to be full of “ra-ra, rowdy” teens. To his surprise, the residents were calm, even respectful, and the bright, clean halls reminded him of a dormitory.
California youth advocates are fairly pleased with upcoming revisions to the minimum standards governing incarcerated youth but feel there is more work to be done on staff-to-youth ratios and pepper spraying.
Despite public concerns about youth crime, particularly in schools, research has shown that policies based on incapacitation theory have failed utterly to affect crime rates. In fact, while youth crime rates have fallen significantly over the last 30 years, they have continued to plummet despite recent trends towards community-based alternatives (e.g., the ‘Missouri Model’). The evidence suggests that not only do punitive disciplinary approaches often fail they are also unnecessary. It is particularly troubling, then, to consider the police presence and draconian disciplinary measures that have increasingly found their way into America’s schools. Schools typically have rules forbidding mobile phone use, profanity and the like.
The NAACP launched an online petition this week, inviting people to lend their names to a campaign to end the use of pepper spray on students in Birmingham, Al. public schools. “As long as we continue to treat students like criminals, they will grow up to become criminals,” said NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous, in a written statement. The NAACP argues that Mace and pepper spray may be legitimate parts of an adult or crowd policing strategy, but are not acceptable for use on school children. Birmingham’s public school population is overwhelmingly African-American.
The University of California, Davis, campus police chief has been placed on administrative leave after a video showing campus police pepper spraying seated protestors has gone viral. Protestors have called for the resignation of U.C., Davis chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi, according to The New York Times. The video has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times. Speaking at a rally Monday, Katehi apologized to the protestors. “I feel horrible for what happened on Friday,” she said.
Teens in Birmingham, Ala. schools have been routinely sprayed with mace and pepper spray as punishment for minor offenses. The Southern Poverty Law Center has now filed a federal class action lawsuit against the Birmingham City School District on behalf of students who've had chemicals used on them. “We must ask ourselves, what kind of school system allows armed officers to come in and use mace on its children,” said Ebony Glenn Howard, lead attorney on the case for the Center. Hundreds of students were arrested in the Birmingham City Schools last year for minor offenses that could have been taken care of in the principal’s office, according to the Center.