Mississippi's Lauderdale County is under investigation by the Department of Justice for creating a "school-to-prison" pipeline for students in the local education system. The move by the DOJ, which looks into the practice that has children locked in small cells for small wrongs, like talking out of turn, and at times sprayed with mace, follows a federal class-action suit by the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2009 against the Lauderdale County Juvenile Detention Facility, accusing the establishment of "shockingly inhumane" treatment of their charges, reports CNN.
"Students most affected by this system are African-American children and children with disabilities," the Justice Department said.
The federal agency's civil rights division seeks "meaningful negotiations" in 60 days to end the constitutional violations or else a federal lawsuit would be filed against state, county and local officials in Meridian, according to a Justice Department letter dated Friday to those officials.
The letter also names two Lauderdale County Youth Court judges, Frank Coleman and Veldore Young.
State and local officials couldn't be reached immediately for comment Friday.
"The systematic disregard for children's basic constitutional rights by agencies with a duty to protect and serve these children betrays the public trust," Thomas E. Perez, assistant U.S. attorney general, said in a statement. "We hope to resolve the concerns outlined in our findings in a collaborative fashion, but we will not hesitate to take appropriate legal action if necessary."
Read more at CNN.