Darius was only nine when he was locked up. For two months, he languished in a juvenile facility -- alone, frightened. He missed his 10th birthday party. He missed Thanksgiving. He missed his stepfather's funeral.
His offense: He had threatened a teacher with a plastic utensil.
Unfortunately, Darius's early introduction to the juvenile justice system is not that uncommon.
Across America, countless school children -- particularly impoverished children of color -- are being pushed out of schools and into juvenile lock-ups for minor misconduct that in an earlier era would have warranted counseling or a trip to the principal's office, rather than a court appearance.
The problem is particularly acute in the Deep South, where one in four African-Americans lives in poverty.
The children and teens most at risk of entering this "school-to-prison pipeline" are those who, like Darius, have emotional troubles, educational disabilities or other mental health needs.
But rather than receiving the help they need in school, these vulnerable youths are being swept into a cold, uncaring maze of lawyers, courts, judges and detention facilities, where they are groomed for a brutal life in adult prisons.Alternet