Hartford public schools, aka crim justice training schools

Alternate title: You need an ACLU study to tell you this?

So yes, there’s this ACLU study that I mentioned two weeks ago, basically confirming what anyone with two eyes and half a brain and a somewhat peripheral involvement with either the criminal justice system, local politics or the news could tell you: minority kids are arrested at a far higher rate than white kids in Hartford schools. And not just Hartford schools, but West Hartford and East Hartford.

It’s true. How do I know it’s true? Because my clients today were these kids yesterday. Clients who are beat up in the local media as having “long criminal records” and “juvenile records”. Well, yes, yes they do. Because, as per this ACLU study, minority kids are more likely to be arrested for the same offenses than white kids. And round and round we go.

Here are some results for those who are interested:

In West Hartford and East Hartford, students of color are arrested at school at a rate far out of proportion to their numbers. In 2006-07, for example, African American and Hispanic students together accounted for 69 percent of East Hartford’s student population, but experienced 85 percent of its school-based arrests. Likewise, the same year, in West Hartford, African American and Hispanic students accounted for 24 percent of the population, but experienced 63 percent of arrests.

In West Hartford and East Hartford, students of color committing certain common disciplinary infractions are more likely to be arrested than are white students committing the very same offenses. For example, over the two years for which data are available, African American students involved in physical altercations at school in West Hartford were about twice as likely to be arrested as similarly situated white students. And during the  same time period, in East Hartford, both African American and Hispanic students involved in disciplinary incidents involving drugs, alcohol, or tobacco were ten times more likely to be arrested than were similarly situated white students.

In all three school districts, very young students are being arrested at school. For example, in Hartford, during the two years for which data are available, 86 primary-grade students experienced school-based arrest. A majority of these were seventh or eighth graders, but 25 were in grades four through six, and 13 were in grade three or below.

WHForums sums up the Board of Ed’s reaction thusly:

The ACLU says:  The numbers demonstrate that children of different races and ethnicities are treated differently. (Implicit:  Institutional racism.  Look in the mirror).

WHPS says:  Oh, that’s a problem if it’s true.  Good thing we know it’s not true.  (We will not look in the mirror, but thanks).

So what now? It seems as though the country has moved very quickly toward criminalizing everything and getting the police involved at the slightest provocation. Back when I was a kid (a long, long time ago), you’d get into fights with other kids, your parents would get called, they’d kick your rear and then you’d make up with the other kid. Police involvement was out of the question. Now, for fear of lawsuits or whatever, the cops are summoned at the drop of a hat. The first and foremost step should be:

Whenever possible, SROs should impose lesser sanctions, such as ticketing, rather than arresting students.

SROs must arrest students only as a last resort – only where arrest is absolutely necessary
to protect school safety or for the initiation of juvenile justice proceedings.

And most importantly, we a society and as a government have to admit this. Admit that we are arresting minorities at a greater rate; admit that we are doing this under the guise of “public safety”, but in reality it is profiling. Only when we admit it can, we then take substantive steps to correct it and a lot of the underlying criminal justice problems. As long as we keep up our current rate of incarceration of minorities under the pretense of “tough on crime”, we will continue to have studies like this, that will slap us in the face.

We have to take greater responsibility, as a community, for those that live amongst us. We have to truly understand the underlying socio-economic factors before we can even begin to tackle the greater problems.

So stop lying to us. We know it’s true. You know it’s true. You know we know it’s true. So stop. It doesn’t help anyone, least of all the children that have an introduction to the criminal justice system, a taste of what their life is going to be like, at a very tender age. We don’t need it.

5 thoughts on “Hartford public schools, aka crim justice training schools

  1. Gerard

    We have to truly understand the underlying socio-economic factors
    What do socio-economic factors have to do with it? The implicit assumption of the ACLU report and your post is that, except for color, students are exactly the same.

    1. Gideon Post author

      This is one of the factors I talk about. Minorities are in jail at greater rates than whites because of stuff like this.

      Yes, the last few paragraphs weren’t clear, but they do represent a break from the comment on the ACLU study.

  2. R Cotto

    I agree about the socio-economic factors. But how dispersed are these factors? Which factors are we talking about exactly? In your work, which factors you think pertain most to this study?

    1. Gideon Post author

      I wasn’t clear; it’s the other way round. This is a factor. We have to admit that this happens and get a greater understanding of it when we are in adult court. Minority clients are routinely sentenced to higher terms of incarceration because of their “longer” involvement in the criminal justice system. This is where that involvement starts.

  3. Pingback: They’re Talking about the ACLU Report in New York and Chicago … « West Hartford Forums

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