How Philadelphia Disrupted the School-to-Prison Pipeline


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By Amanda Nemoyer & Naomi Goldstein, YES! Magazine

Research on a police diversion program implemented in 2014 shows a striking 91% reduction in in-school arrests over less than 10 years.

“Philadelphia, in particular, has pioneered a successful effort to divert youth from the legal system.”
(Sylvain Grandadam/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)

School-based arrests are one part of the school-to-prison pipeline, through which students—especially Black and Latine students and those with disabilities—are pushed out of their schools and into the legal system.

Getting caught up in the legal system has been linked to negative healthsocial, and academic outcomes, as well as increased risk for future arrest.

Given these negative consequences, public agencies in states like ConnecticutNew York, and Pennsylvania have looked for ways to arrest fewer young people in schools. Philadelphia, in particular, has pioneered a successful effort to divert youth from the legal system.

In Philadelphia, police department leaders recognized that the city’s school district was its largest source of referrals for youth arrests. To address this issue, then–Deputy Police Commissioner Kevin Bethel developed and implemented a school-based, pre-arrest diversion initiative in partnership with the school district and the city’s department of human services. The program is called the Philadelphia Police School Diversion Program, and it officially launched in May 2014.

Learn how the program works and its effects on schools, students, and city costs.

Further implementation of programs like Philadelphia’s may help to prevent cases like this.

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