Jody Owens Works to Change the School to Prison Pipeline in Mississippi

Apr 27, 2020 11:20 PM ET

In 2012, Meridian, Mississippi faced civil rights violations and had a school to prison phenomenon. Mississippi native, Jody Owens has gone to work to fight that and change it.

When most think of the school to prison pipeline, they envision kids who are finishing school or those who are dropping out, only to wind up in prison a short while later. Unfortunately, in Meridian, Mississippi, that pipeline was quite different. Children ranging in ages from 10 to 17, were arrested at school for disobeying teachers, not adhering to dress code and immediately sent to juvenile detention centers, creating the pipeline from school to prison. Jody Owens became involved in this matter through his work at  The Southern Poverty Law Center, Mississippi office. He continues to work hard and garner attention in an effort to reform the school to prison pipeline.

Jody Owens is currently the District Attorney, in Hinds County, Mississippi. Where he has made a career out of defending mass incarceration, private prisons and the school to prison pipelines, many of which violate civil rights and focus on people of color as well as those with low incomes.

One of the ways that Hinds County District Attorney, Jody Owens is working to fight the school to prison pipeline in Mississippi is by implementing guidelines for calling in the police and having children arrested at school. A school infraction is not a criminal offense and most schools are provided with sworn law enforcement as resource officers. Schools are now provided guidelines which state they are only to call in the police for felony offenses, such as drugs and violence. A student disobeying a teacher, and not following dress code are not cause to call the police. Jody Owens has also worked to help fund initiatives that create positive reinforcement for students. This gives students something to strive for.

In addition to reforming the school to prison pipeline, Jody Owens is working to reform the entire justice system. As District Attorney, Jody Owens is looking at creating re-entry programs that can help people to find jobs or finish their education, create more mental health programs that inmates can utilize in prisons and continue upon release.  Jody Owens also wants to end cash bail in Mississippi, as it creates an imbalance among the rich who can afford bail and the poor who cannot.

Meridian, Mississippi made headlines in 2012 when it was rated as the worst school to prison pipeline. Thanks to the efforts of Jody Owens things are looking up and the pipelines are being destroyed.

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Nolan Miller
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