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CDF: Breaking the "Cradle to Prison Pipeline"

February 26, 2009

As many as one in three Florida children end up behind bars. This statistic and others are cited in a new report by the Children's Defense Fund. Looking to young people who have beaten the odds for possible ways to stop this "cradle to prison pipeline" is the purpose of a summit taking place this week in California, organized by the national children's advocacy organization.

The Children's Defense Fund reports one in six Florida children is born poor and often receives insufficient health care, education or support. Evan Holland, communications director with Children's Defense Fund-California, says these children could be in a pipeline to success instead. The California gathering includes Floridians and young people from other states who have beaten tough odds, she adds.

"They're almost like Children's Defense Fund ambassadors. They understand not only the problems on the ground - because they've been faced with them personally - but they've also been active in their communities in trying to implement solutions to prevent more children from getting stuck in the prison pipeline."

Critics say it's too expensive to fund more children's programs, but Holland points out that prevention costs less than incarceration.

For example, she says, Florida spends three times as much on jail prisoners as it does on public school pupils. She says one in three Black boys, one in six Latinos and one in 17 Caucasian boys will likely end up behind bars.

"A Black boy looks to his left or looks to his right and may see a friend, a family member or a classmate in prison or headed down the prison pipeline. What kind of hope does it give that child? Why would that keep a child motivated or in school because he feels like there's no reason for him to be there?"

She says dollars need to be re-directed to education and programs that help support children and families. Society can help children beat the odds, she adds, by letting them know they matter.

"The young people who will be at this summit overcame those odds by getting connected with organizations who could help and support them through the challenges that cross their paths in life and help show them a different way, a pipeline to success."

More information is available at www.childrensdefensefund.org.

Gina Presson , Public News Service - FL