The U.S. Department of Justice says a comprehensive investigation found Lauderdale County Youth Court, Meridian Police Department and Mississippi Division of Youth Services in Meridian violated the constitutional due process rights of children.
DOJ Friday released a letter of findings stating that
there were violations under the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.
The justice department said its investigation showed that the agencies have "helped to operate a school-to-prison pipeline whereby children arrested in local schools become entangled in a cycle of incarceration without substantive and procedural protections required by the U.S. Constitution."
The allegations are that minors have been "routinely and repeatedly incarcerated for allegedly committing school disciplinary infractions and are punished disproportionately, without constitutionally required procedural safeguards."
Examples it cited are youth being arrested at school for offenses such as defiance, and youth on probation for offenses like dress code violations.
DOJ said its investigation showed that students most affected by this system are African-American children and children with disabilities.
The city of Meridian and the police department declined to respond on-camera. the city's attorney released the following written statement:
"I received the twelve page letter from the US Department of Justice early this afternoon. I have not yet had the opportunity to read and digest it.
We have been cooperating with the Department of Justice investigation from the moment we were notified last December.
We have provided voluminous documents and allowed DOJ attorneys to interview Meridian Police Department personnel without any reservations.
The City of Meridian is committed to assisting the Meridian Public School District in providing a safe learning environment for our children and we believe we have done so without violating anyone’s constitutional rights."
City of Meridian
A link to the DOJ news release is provided below.