Cohen Legislation to Help End School-To-Prison Pipeline Approved by House of Representatives

July 9, 2015
Press Release

[WASHINGTON, DC] – The U.S House of Representatives has approved legislation authored by Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) to cut short the “School-to-Prison Pipeline” and reduce youth incarceration in America by helping train school personnel in innovative conflict resolution methods that are less likely to result in non-violent juveniles entering the penal system. Currently, many school systems involve the police in non-violent incidents on school property, which helps feed the “school-to-prison” pipeline that is expensive and harmful to America’s youth.

“While I do not agree with the underlying bill, I am pleased that the House has approved my legislation to cut short the ‘school-to-prison pipeline’ that disproportionately impacts African-American communities,” said Congressman Cohen “If passed by the Senate and signed by President Obama, my legislation will help ensure that teachers and youth counselors have access to the resources they need to keep our nation’s young people out of prison, help improve the healing process for victims, save our country money, and improve outcomes for everyone.”

Congressman Cohen’s legislation was included in the Elementary and Secondary Education Reauthorization Act that passed the House last night. It would allow local education agencies and school districts to use their current federal funding to provide training in restorative justice methods. Restorative justice can serve as cost-effective and useful alternatives to the more punitive conflict resolution methods used by many schools to resolve minor student conflicts, such as suspensions or involving the police.

The victim-centered restorative justice process holds offenders accountable to their victims and their communities, helps offenders understand the impact of their actions, and gives the wronged party an opportunity to have a voice in resolving the conflict—which can assist in the healing process and prevent victims from becoming aggressors.

Congressman Cohen introduced similar legislation, the Restorative Justice in Schools Act, in 2013 and 2011. This issue was first brought the Congressman’s attention by Assistant Shelby County Public Defender and former U.S. Attorney Veronica Coleman-Davis, who is a longtime advocate for reducing the number of young people entering our justice system.