Disability Rights and Justice Reform
A key aspect of the work of the Virgin Islands University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities involves justice reform efforts and activities that specifically address the school-to-prison pipeline. The school-to-prison pipeline has been described by the American Civil Liberties Union as:
“a disturbing national trend wherein children are funneled out of public schools and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems. Many of these children have learning disabilities or histories of poverty, abuse, or neglect, and would benefit from additional educational and counseling services. Instead, they are isolated, punished, and pushed out.”
The school-to-prison pipeline disproportionately affects people with hidden disabilities.
VIUCEDD staff members have been engaged in ongoing efforts to address this problem. We provided the keynote address at the First Annual Crime Prevention Symposium in The U.S. Virgin Islands, focused on juvenile justice reform and the links between school failure, undiagnosed hidden disabilities, and future incarceration. The Crime Prevention Symposium was sponsored by Senator Novelle E. Francis in his role at the time as the Vice Chairperson of the Committee on Homeland Security, Justice, and Public Safety.
VIUCEDD staff also participated with a special coalition appointed by the Office of The Governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands in conjunction with the National Governors Association. The coalition was tasked with undertaking juvenile justice reform efforts in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
In June of 2018, VIUCEDD staff was invited to provide special testimony to the U.S. Virgin Islands Legislature at a Senate Hearing with three other scholarly experts on justice reform efforts.
Juvenile justice and overall justice reform efforts are ongoing, and the VIUCEDD continues to advocate for our populations of people with hidden and visible disabilities that are impacted by these occurrences.