The Consequences of the School to Prison Pipeline in Georgia

Wenona Clark Belton, associate court judge for the Juvenile Court of Fulton County, says the consequences of the school to prison pipeline are “real—and devastating.” Though the scales of justice are tilted toward mass incarceration, she offers solutions that will tilt them back in the opposite direction.

“Children who cannot read well are often disruptive, bored, distracted, and embarrassed,” said Belton. “Children who are disruptive in school are excluded from school, and that is largely the result of school-based referrals.”

Belton noted that more than 70 percent of youth who are court connected have a learning disability or behavioral health challenge—diagnosed or undiagnosed—as compared to 20 percent of youth in the general population.

“When children are unable to read, they are more likely to transition into the adult justice system,” said Belton. “We’ve got to invest more in educating our children than we spend on incarcerating adults. What’s it going to take? We’ve got to put aside the politics. We’ve got to be creative. We’ve got to keep kids out of the school to prison pipeline.”

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