28 February 2006

The Jailhouse Track

Cindy Rodriguez at the Denver Post calls it the "Jailhouse track". Too often, instead of handling minor infractions within the school system, children in the Denver Public Schools are given tickets that send them to the juvenile court system. Too often tough on drug policies and prosecutorial discretion to try juveniles as adults without judicial approval brands kids as criminals. These kids often end up among the 25% of Latinos and 17% of black students in Colorado (compared to 11% of whites) who drop out.

The shocker statistic:

77 percent of inmates in the state and federal prisons across the nationa do not have a high school diploma, accordig to a 2003 report by the U.S. Department of Justice.

The statistic puts hard numbers on the notion of "high risk".

Jail is expensive. School is less expensive. For our society a policy of indifference towards drop outs, a focus purely on "opportunity" instead of outcomes, an attitude that your success or failure is purely your own problem, is a recipe for more crime, bigger prison bills and economic stagnation for a significant share of our population that could be helping this nation to thrive economically instead.

Not all chores are fun, and the chores that are least fun tend to get put off. It isn't fun to roll up your sleeves, spend money and butt into someone's life in an effort to get someone whose failing in school on track. It is much easier to focus on the fun opportuntities, the kids who are going to national science fars and honors programs and magnet schools. But, if you don't do the chores, things start to fall apart.

Not every kid needs to be on the college track, but no kid should be on the jailhouse track.

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