The EditorialBoard of the The New York Times published an editorial on juvenile justice reform in yesterday’s paper. The Board noted that the numbers of children held in custody have gone down and applauded this trend. The Board went on to advocate that more be done, and wisely suggested that policymakers across the nation focus on the quality of education. But this is where The Board’s wisdom ends. The Board wrote that the “good news is that it is possible to create strong schools inside juvenile facilities that actually help the most troubled children. This can be done by improving coordination between the public schools and the juvenile justice system.”
It makes sense to provide a quality education for children in custody. But, as a nation, we should be wary of The Board’s suggestion to improve coordination between public schools and the juvenile justice system. We already have enough coordination in this regard. Oneexample is the decision of an Arizona high school principal to order a lockdown at his school and invite the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), thenation’s largest private, for-profit prison corporation, to help state agenciesconduct a drug raid.
The students were lined up against a wall and dogs were brought in to search for drugs. This disgraceful treatment of high schoolchildren goes dangerously beyond the provision of a quality education for children in custody. The children who were subjected to the drug raid were not in the custody of the juvenile justice system. They were in the custody of school administrators and teachers responsible for educating them.
My fellow blogger, dre cummings has written eloquently about for-profit prison companies. I have written about for-profit education companies. Both of us are skeptical about corporations’ ability to run prisons and schools in a way that maximizes shareholder wealth while benefitting inmates and children. Will the incarcerated suffer so that shareholders can profit? Will students’ education suffer so that shareholders can profit? Can for-profit companies make money for shareholders and do what is best for students and prisoners. Yesterday’s New York Times editorial calls for strengthening the connection between criminal justice systems and public schools. When you add to this the likelihood of the involvement of for-profit prison companies like CCA in the lives of public schoolchildren, I am afraid that shareholders will win/profit at the expense of schoolchildren who are treated like criminals.