WASHINGTON, Aug. 10 (UPI) -- The U.S. Justice Department Friday accused police, the courts and juvenile probation officials of operating a school-to-prison pipeline in Meridian, Miss.
Justice said its Civil Rights Division investigation, which began in December, found children arrested at Meridian schools were trapped in an incarceration cycle and systematically deprived of their rights.
"The department's findings show that children in Lauderdale County have been routinely and repeatedly incarcerated for allegedly committing school disciplinary infractions and are punished disproportionately, without constitutionally required procedural safeguards," a department release said. "Children have also been arrested at school for offenses as minor as defiance. Furthermore, children on probation are routinely arrested and incarcerated for allegedly violating their probation by committing minor school infractions, such as dress code violations, which result in suspensions."
Those affected were overwhelmingly black or disabled.
"The systematic disregard for children's basic constitutional rights by agencies with a duty to protect and serve these children betrays the public trust," Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Thomas E. Perez said.