Legal Aid Society


Listen: Subverting the School-to-Prison Pipeline in New York

Lisa Freeman, Director of the Special Litigation Unit for The Legal Aid’s Society  Juvenile Rights Practice, appeared on WCNY’s Capitol Pressroom to discuss legislation passed by state lawmakers that would help combat the school-to-prison pipeline.

Last week, the New York State Legislature passed a bill that would end the arrest and prosecution of children below the age of 12, except in homicide cases (previously, children as young as 7 could be arrested and prosecuted). The bill now awaits action from Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Juvenile rights defenders have long criticized both the unequal application of the law, as well as the wisdom of doing so. State data shows that as many as 90% of the pre-teen children who are arrested in New York City are Black or Latinx. Additionally, out of approximately 1,000 children 12 or under arrested in New York every year, only a fraction are eventually prosecuted – putting in question the utility of a potentially scarring experience.

“The larger concern here is that it’s really a traumatizing experience for young children to be treated that way,” said Freeman. “We’re talking about elementary school children. And it really feeds the school-to-prison pipeline.  It’s also a matter of racial justice . . . It’s a question of treating all children the same and ensuring that children aren’t traumatized needlessly.”

Listen to the full segment below.