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Est. April 5, 2002
November 17, 2016 - Issue 675

In the School-To-Prison Track
Young Minorities Can’t
Look to Trump for Help


"It is racist and inhumane, but politicians
can hide behind the various bureaucracies,
when it comes to laying the blame."

In the preparations for the takeover of the U.S. government by the Donald Trump forces, it is painfully clear that much of what he is poised to deliver is going to hurt those who expect even a little help from social programs, but especially young black and brown boys and men.

A study that was completed earlier this year showed another reason why the school-to-prison pipeline for youngsters exists. According to a study by the International Journal of Health Services earlier this year, black and Hispanic children and young adults get about half the mental health services provided to their white counterparts.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) describes the pipeline as “a disturbing trend wherein children are funneled out of public schools and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems.” As the ACLU points out, many of the children have learning disabilities or histories of poverty, abuse, or neglect, “and would benefit from additional educational and counseling services. Instead, they are isolated, punished, and pushed out” of their schools and into, what?

The study, according to Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), used data on children under 18 and young adults 18-34 from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey covering all 50 states for the years 2006-2012. Minorities, PNHP reported, received “much less of virtually all types of mental health care,” including visits to psychiatrists, social workers and psychologists, as well as substance abuse counseling and mental health counseling by pediatricians and other doctors.

Their findings include the following:

  • Black and Latino children made, respectively, 37 percent and 49 percent fewer visits to psychiatrists, and 47 percent and 58 percent fewer visits to any mental health professional, than white children.

  • Black children’s low use of services was not due to lesser need.

  • Black and white children had similar rates of mental health problems, and similar rates of severe episodes that resulted in psychiatric hospitalization or emergency visits.

  • Hispanic parents reported less mental health impairment among their children, but analyses that controlled for this lesser need for care continued to show underuse compared to non-Hispanic whites.

Young adults, the study showed, experienced even greater disparities, with whites, receiving about three times more outpatient mental health services than black or Hispanics. It added: “The substance abuse counseling rate for black young adults was strikingly low, about one-seventh that for whites.” And, these are people who are most likely to have been subjected to police presence in their schools. That police presence has changed the tone of school administrations’ handling of infractions, from in-school discipline, to violations of the law, however serious or minor the infraction. Thus, the introduction of the individual student to the school-to-prison pipeline.

When the study considered imprisonment of these young persons, it noted: “According to Department of Justice data, at least half of inmates suffer from mental illness, most of which had been untreated when they were arrested.” This is particularly significant in that much of the discipline of children in school started as early as pre-school. Again, the study: “Black children suffer excessive rates of school discipline such as suspensions and expulsions starting at preschool ages. Minority teens also have disproportionate contact with the juvenile justice system, with higher arrest rates for nonviolent, low-level offenses such as drug possession, as well as for non-criminal misbehaviors such as truancy and curfew violations. Youthful transgressions that might result in referral for treatment among non-minority children more often incur criminal sanctions for minorities."

This is the age of mass incarceration, in which minorities, especially black and brown young persons, make up much of the population in the nation’s prisons, and it must be made clear to all people that this starts early, even in pre-school. Their incarceration rate far exceeds their numbers as a percentage of the population of the nation, so the policies of the federal government, congressional politicians, and the state legislatures and governments are directly responsible. It is their intention that this outcome exists. It is racist and inhumane, but politicians can hide behind the various bureaucracies, when it comes to laying the blame. “Things move too slowly and the bureaucracy is too cumbersome for us to make fundamental changes,” they can say. In addition, they can, and do, say, “There isn’t any money in the budget for this.” That may be true, but it is their intent to be sure that there isn’t enough money for programs.

When there are problems of this magnitude, it would be expected that government would take some action to solve the problems, such as increasing federal monies to fund the states’ health and welfare programs. Instead, those programs have either shrunk or have stagnated under various administrations in Washington and the U.S., “the great world power,” has chosen to fund endless war, rather than come to the assistance of these most vulnerable citizens.

Don’t look for any increase in the social programs under a Donald Trump administration. Even at this early date, the president-elect has peopled his White House with those who are most hostile to any kind of social programs, in favor of laws and policies that benefit Corporate America and the national war machine. For example, the Huffington Post reported this week, “Steve Bannon, the Breitbart News Network executive chairman, known for having white nationalist views, and who has himself been accused of anti-Semitism, was named chief strategist and senior counselor to President-elect Donald Trump on Sunday.” “White nationalism,” in this case, apparently is just a euphemism for white supremacy, and that’s what everyone will be dealing with in trying to bring change to mass incarceration and the school-to-prison pipeline. The White House of the land of the free and the home of the brave is to be filled with people not in the least interested in social justice and a leveling of the playing field.

Punishment and incarceration of our children is evidence of a culture gone wild with such things as the promise to keep the pipeline to prison going at a steady pace. It’s not even a consideration for those who are to be appointed to high office in the Trump Administration. The only way it will become an issue is for the people, in general, to make it an issue by bringing it to the forefront of the daily news. There are many groups that are gearing up for the battles ahead: Black Lives Matter, the NAACP, Center for Constitutional Rights, the ACLU, the Standing Rock water protectors, and scores upon scores of other groups ready to battle the coming storm.

The research was led by Dr. Lyndonna Marrast, who was a fellow at Harvard Medical School and Cambridge Health Alliance when she initiated the study. Marrast is currently assistant professor of medicine at the Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine in New York. The study’s co-authors are Drs. Steffie Woolhandler and David Himmelstein, professors at the City University of New York at Hunter College and lecturers at Harvard Medical School. The latter two doctors are the co-founders of PNHP, which stands for a universal health care plan, similar to those of all other developed countries.

Dr. Marrast commented: “It has become increasingly clear that minorities are over represented in the criminal justice system and underrepresented in the receipt of mental health care. We need to look closely at how equitably our health care institutions are serving all segments of society.”

A close look at President-elect Trump’s view of the prison pipeline (if he knows what that is) discloses that he personally will ensure that the pipeline is filled to capacity, with just one of his stated policies: He wants to make stop-and-frisk the law of the land, not just that of individual cities or states. The fight to empty that pipeline is a formidable one, but it must be fought. Columnist, John Funiciello, is a long-time former newspaper reporter and labor organizer, who lives in the Mohawk Valley of New York State. In addition to labor work, he is organizing family farmers as they struggle to stay on the land under enormous pressure from factory food producers and land developers. Contact Mr. Funiciello and BC.




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Executive Editor:
David A. Love, JD
Managing Editor:
Nancy Littlefield, MBA
Peter Gamble

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