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Community forum held to target school-to-prison pipeline

A community forum Tuesday night addressed one major question: How can more youth services be implemented in Meridian?

“There has to be somebody that takes the lead and initiative in each community to provide services that children need, to keep them off the street and give them opportunities after school,” said James Maccarone, director of the Division of Youth Services in the Mississippi Department of Human Services.

Held at 31st Missionary Baptist Church on 20th Street, the forum results from a settlement agreement between the U.S. Department of Justice and the Mississippi Division of Youth Services. In 2012, the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against the city of Meridian, the state of Mississippi, the Lauderdale County Youth Court and Youth Court judges, for allegedly violating youth’s due process rights.

“It started because many of the children in the Meridian school system were being taken into custody for minor offenses while they were on probation, and they were sent to detention center. They had to do their suspension in the detention center. They went to the detention center for infractions that should be handled through local school discipline,” said Maccarone.

The settlement requires a semiannual meeting where residents can brainstorm youth opportunities. But few people showed up Tuesday night.

“It was very poorly attended. I think they gave us some great information. We needed more people to come out to really see what was going on,” said Barbara Ivy, who lives in Meridian.

An issue brought up was the lack of funding for youth services. Thomas Parker, the leader of Tomorrow’s Fathers, a local youth group that provides male mentors for boys, gave a few suggestions:

“Every organization needs funding, so I think if churches could donate their change to a different organization each week, that could keep the funding going and we could all be effective.”

Residents also learned that five counselors from the Mississippi Division of Human Services are housed locally to help create more youth programs.

The next community forum regarding the settlement agreement is scheduled for January. The exact day, time, and location is still being determined. Residents, however, will be notified well in advance.


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