Cradle To Prison Pipeline-Mothers Speak Out - - Jackson, MS

Cradle To Prison Pipeline-Mothers Speak Out

We continue a 3 On Your Side Investigation. We talk with two mothers who say their lives have been turned upside down by blanket policies on dealing with children who get into trouble.. And State Corrections Commissioner Christopher Epps who says about 50 percent of the young offenders in prison have mental health problems, one of the leading causes of what the Children's Defense Fund calls the Cradle to Prison Pipeline.

Corrections Commissioner Christopher Epps says right now in the prison system there are 829 in custody under the age of 21 statewide. 890 who are on probation, 62 of those are on house arrest.

 Epps says many of these young men come into the system without a high school education.

"Today the youngest is age 15 but we can have inmates as low as 13", Epps said.

Epps and his staff work to educate and rehabilitate the young men who are sentenced to prison.

"Inmates come in at the 6th grade reading, writing and arithmetic level. 6th grade. In addition to that 77.6% have an alcohol or drug problem", Epps said.

These two mothers are concerned and angry. Jennifer Brown says her son who is 5th grade brought a "bb" gun on his school bus and now attends the alternative school in Jackson.

"They first tried to arrest him. How you gonna arrest him and you didn't ask no questions. Why should you send him to alternative school and he ain't never been in trouble?", Brown asked.

Brown says there should be consequences but not at the expense of education.

"You gotta give people a chance. You just can't throw people away like that", said Brown.

Betty Turner says she is a mom turned advocate because of her son. She says the problems started in middle school.

"I've lost jobs, I've been to jail, I've been put out of schools", said Turner.

Turner says it has become too easy to label children as problems and not deal with the real issues. Her son has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

"If my child has done something, I'm not saying don't punish him, but talk to me first. Well if you're going to transport him because he got into a fight, or he skipped class or he wouldn't sit down in his chair, so you're gonna put him out of school", Turner said.

Turner  says parents, policy makers and educators must work together to stop the Cradle to Prison Pipeline.

"I couldn't even come to the school at one point. I'm disrupting the school. No, I'm trying to help you help my child. Cause if I can help you help my child, then you're helping me. I can go to school, and I can go to work. If I can't work, I can't eat", said Turner.

Turner says her son wants to serve in the military, and Jennifer Brown credits an after school program, 21st Century Community Learning Center at Tougaloo College with helping her 5th grader stay positive about his future and interested in learning.

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