Suffolk County law enforcement leaders are trying to bust the school-to-prison pipeline problem they say is having deleterious effects on communities across the island.

The school-to-prison pipeline is a national and longstanding trend where children from public schools are winding up as juveniles in the criminal justice system.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, the majority of children that wind up in this “pipeline” are those with learning disabilities or childhoods rooted in poverty, abuse, or neglect.

To remedy this problem, Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon formed a Prison Pipeline Task Force in the fall of 2018, which, according to his office, prompted him to create more community relations projects like enrolling schools in the Sandy Hook Promise’s “Say Something” program.

And last Friday, the sheriff’s office organized a public forum on the topic at Touro Law Center in Central Islip.

The goal was to gather community testimonials as well as professional expertise in order to create future programs to combat the problem.

“Deconstructing the prison pipeline is about mobilizing all facets of the community to prevent juvenile delinquency and crime,” said Toulon. “It’s about implementing practical prevention and intervention solutions that will improve people’s lives and make our communities safer.”

Toulon, who co-hosted the event with state Assemblywoman Kimberly Jean-Pierre (D-Babylon), invited a panel of government officials, educators, judges, and leaders in the human services sectors to speak. 

“Our hearings last week touched on school disciplinary policies, the effects of childhood abuse, trauma and parental incarceration on our youth, the impact of drugs, and gangs, and what we need to do to stop inter-generational crime and incarceration in Suffolk County,” said Toulon.

According to the sheriff, the task force plans to release its future plans within the next two months.

Top: Sheriff Errol Toulon and Assemblywoman Kimberly Jean Pierre at the Touro Law Center in Central Islip (courtesy photo.)