Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Teach Them A Lesson

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, as of mid-year 2005 over 6000 juveniles were incarcerated in adult detention centers* pending trial. This number has actually been declining after reaching an all-time high in 1999. While there is no constitutional right to public education, many states do have laws that mandate the provision of education to juveniles housed in adult jails, or prison policies that mandate participation in GED programs for juveniles serving time in adult prisons. About a quarter of all state prison inmates get a GED while incarcerated.

The issue that brought this topic to mind was a recent CNN story commenting on restrictions to juvenile education in the Cook County jail. Specifically, this jail has banned hardbound textbooks and also regulates juvenile access to pencils. The article portrayed this as unreasonable or unnecessary, however this is pretty standard correctional stuff. Most facilities have restrictions on hardbound books because they can be used to store or transport contraband. And pencil-stabbing is certainly not unheard of. The fact of the matter is that when it comes to constitutional rights, there is an uncanny resemblance between the restrictions placed on students and the restrictions placed on inmates. In public schools the restrictions are justified by the fact that the school is acting in the place of the students' parents, meaning that the school has an obligation to supervise and safeguard their juveniles. Correctional facilities have the same obligation.

I actually had a different topic I was planning to blog about, but the recent reference to the gansta-wannabe son changed my mind. When he gets home you should greet him at the door wearing a sign saying "Geek Mom".

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*A bit of explanation for our foreign readers and those not familiar with the American correctional system: detention centers, or jails, are run by local county governments and house pretrial detainees. Prisons are facilities run by the state or Federal government, and are used to house convicted and sentenced offenders.

2 comments:

On the Same Page said...

I can't tell you the number of times inmates have attempted to take my pens and paperclips. They ordinarily must sign forms, and I have a ton of paperwork, separated by paperclips. But I also have an acute sense of order: I look at the desk and know something is not right. "Did you give me my pen back?" "Oh, sorry," as they dig it out of the big pockets of their coats. Once when I was missing a paperclip and the inmate refused to fess up, the CO's literally stripped him to find it stuffed down the front of his pants. He was yelling the whole time that I was a liar (Ok, he didn't limit it to "liar") until they found. He didn't apologize.

ClinkShrink said...

It's truly amazing what can be done with little items we take for granted. I've seen videos of guys who can pop handcuffs using nothing but a paperclip or a plastic comb. I always remind my students never to leave an inmate alone in the office for that reason.