Bethel’s aha moment came after he went to a conference and heard terms like “trauma” and the “school-to-prison pipeline.” He said he had no idea what they were talking about.
When he returned home, he pulled up the data on in-school arrests. And he was taken aback by what he saw.
“I thought, let’s take that back 20 years. Look at the thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of kids we had locked up for minor offenses. And where they are now?… And why were we doing that?” Bethel said. “I mean, thousands and thousands of kids for fighting in school. Stuff that I did as a kid in school.”
…Early studies by the Juvenile Justice Research and Reform Lab at Drexel University show that even though school arrests are down, school safety hasn’t been compromised.
…She showed me on a white board a list of minor offenses that used to get students arrested.
“Scissors. Knives. Marijuana. Pills. Vandalism. Trespassing,” she said. “You know if the kid is fighting in school…they would actually charge him with disorderly conduct.”
…“I was in solitary confinement. So, I was in my cell like 22 hours a day,” Le said. She is 20, and one of the youngest staff members at YASP. Even if all the current reforms had been in place when she was arrested, they wouldn’t have applied to her. Because she had a gun charge, she was held in an adult facility.
There are rules saying that the youth jail population should never interact with the adult jail population, which is why Le was held in solitary by default.