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Officials in Lauderdale County, Mississippi, have operated “a school-to-prison pipeline" that violates the constitutional rights of juveniles by incarcerating them for alleged school disciplinary infractions, some as minor as defiance, the U.S. Department of Justice said Friday.

"Students most affected by this system are African-American children and children with disabilities," the Justice Department said. The federal agency’s civil rights division seeks “meaningful negotiations” in 60 days to end the constitutional violations or else a federal lawsuit would be filed against state, county and local officials in Meridian, according to a Justice Department letter dated Friday to those officials.

The letter also names two Lauderdale County Youth Court judges, Frank Coleman and Veldore Young…

On Friday, the U.S. Justice Department accused Meridian police of automatically arresting all students referred by the city’s public schools and then sending them to the county juvenile justice system, “where existing due process protections are illusory and inadequate,” the federal letter says.

The police department command staff and officers characterized their agency as a “taxi service” for the schools and juvenile detention facility, without assessing the circumstances of the alleged charges against students, the Justice Department said.

— from “Feds: Mississippi County Runs ‘School-to-Prison Pipeline’" by Michael Martinez reporting for CNN.com (Aug. 10, 2012). Bold emphasis added by DakotaPuma.

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