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Across Mississippi, the futures of young children are being cut short. The state’s schools push out almost 40 percent of its public school students. Many times ineffective discipline policies create a prison-like environment in schools where children are removed from the classroom – or even handcuffed – for minor infractions such as school uniform violations.

In Mississippi’s juvenile justice system, children frequently endure brutal physical abuse, prolonged isolation and denial of medical, mental health and educational services. These abusive facilities are funded at the expense of community-based alternatives to imprisonment, which are only used sparingly across the state.

Our lawyers and community advocates, based in Jackson, are dedicated to reforming Mississippi’s broken schools and its abusive juvenile justice system. Through grassroots campaigns and litigation, the SPLC targets school discipline policies that criminalize students.

We also work to eliminate barriers preventing students from receiving educational services required by law. Our advocates work with parents and community groups throughout Mississippi to help parents understand their legal rights so they can ensure their children receive the education they deserve.

The state’s juvenile justice system, which has funneled children into abusive and filthy detention facilities, is also a priority. The SPLC works to reduce the number of children warehoused in detention facilities and protect them from abuse. We work to replace jail and prison cells with proven alternatives that build on the strengths of children, families and communities and are more effective at protecting public safety.

Our efforts in Mississippi have already shut down an abusive prison for girls and played a key role in the passage of the state’s Juvenile Justice Reform Act of 2005 and the Mississippi Juvenile Delinquency Prevention Act of 2006.

But there is still much work to be done. We continue to challenge brutal conditions in detention centers and other facilities throughout the state, including an alternative school in Jackson where students were shackled and handcuffed for hours at a time as punishment for school uniform violations. We also are working to ensure students with disabilities in Jackson’s public schools receive services required by federal law that can help these students succeed.

Through these efforts, the SPLC is committed to working with Mississippi’s children and families to reform these broken systems, rebuild safe, healthy communities and increase a child’s life chances.