Trump’s Plan Would Send Black Boys’ School-to-Prison Pipeline into Overdrive

His best days, as such they were, are behind him.

Let the record reflect that Donald Trump will never again step foot in The White House or host a state dinner. He will never have the opportunity to pillage the national coffers for his own gain and that military parade he once pined for will never happen. Ultimately, Trump’s haphazard ploy to return to the Oval Office will almost certainly end in defeat, indictment or both.

But that doesn’t keep him from whipping up pangs of fear and loathing to pump up his waning base of support. This time around, just like the last, Trump is proposing bigoted, unthinkable policy ideas.

His latest scheme? In a rambling video message, he threatened to deploy the full power of the Departments of Justice and Education to upend local juvenile justice systems around the country. In his words, he wants to “end the leftist takeover of school discipline and juvenile justice” and send the federal government to oversee discipline in schools.

Unworkable? Sure. Illegal? Without question. So much for small government, right?

If Trump has his way—and surely he will not—the DOJ and DOE will take over student discipline. He claims without a whiff of evidence that local governments are indulging criminal activity. “When troubled youth are going wild, we will stop it. The consequences are swift, certain, and strong, and they will know that,” he said. “Many of these carjackers and criminals are 13, 14 and 15 years old. I will order the education and justice departments to overhaul federal standards on disciplining minors,” the potentially soon-to-be felon pronounced.

The notion of state’s rights be damned. In a bid to outdo Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and his boneheaded book bans, Trump wants the federal government to jump in front of governors, mayors, and school boards to go after children. Never mind that in many states children are all too often prosecuted as adults for certain crimes. The worst violent offenders can and sometimes do receive life sentences.

But make no mistake. When Trump says children, he means my children. He means Black children from “shithole” cities like Atlanta and Chicago. According to Department of Justice data, Black juveniles are three times more likely to be incarcerated than Hispanics, and six times more likely to be incarcerated than white children. Racial disparities among children punished for the same offenses in-school and in courtrooms are well-documented.

The very idea of federalizing school discipline is absurd—not to mention unconstitutional—and, quite frankly, racist. But what can we expect from a man who attempted to trade arms for dirt on his political adversaries? Embracing the lunatic fringes, he will go down as the only sitting U.S. president in our nation’s history to foment an armed insurrection. But, just when you thought he couldn’t stoop any lower, he hollowed out a canyon and dove in head-first.

He doesn’t exactly say how he will do this. Does the reigning Emperor of Mar-A-Lago plan to build federal prison camps for children? Labor farms for schoolkids? Or just imprison them alongside adults? Have the tiny people in his head discussed this? He clearly has no one in his orbit who truly cares about him, let alone a marginally competent public policy team that can check his worst impulses.

If we expected Trump to get smarter for his experiences or become a nimbler politician with a stronger grasp on the vagaries of governing, I can assure you he has not. He has shown little wisdom for his years in office and an even deeper devotion to divisive, mean-spirited issue positions. A modern-day Bull Connor, he has shown himself to be disconnected, feckless and lazy.

Let it be said that Trump never really wanted the job. In 2016, as he descended that gold-toned escalator, it was clear that he was launching another gambit to advance his personal brand. After all, there had been steaks, airlines, television shows and a bevy of other get-rich-quick schemes designed to line his Trump-branded pockets. So why not a presidency?

Wanting to be president is quite different from actually wanting to do the job. You know if you run, you could win, his wife reportedly said, almost as a warning. Being leader of the free world certainly entails more than a morning chats with your banker, endless rounds of golf, and getting gussied up for society galas. And, nobody would know better than Melania how little her husband reads and his miniscule appetite for matters of any real substance. I mean, she has to know that he didn’t actually graduate at the top of any class, let alone Wharton.

Even after he was elected, there was never any real thought given to how he might govern, no meaningful policy formulation, let alone a strategy to—say, for instance– grow the American economy, strengthen relationships with our allies, fight a pandemic or educate the next generation of school children.

In practice, his latest idea wouldn’t just speed the school-to-prison pipeline. It would be a bullet train.

It’s worth noting that as president, Trump had a better idea—or at least one that slipped by his clubby fingers. It didn’t get much attention at the time, but he signed the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act which forced states to begin collecting data on racial disparities in the juvenile system. The law mandates the development of specific strategies to address racial inequalities or risk losing federal funding. Another bipartisan measure eased punishments for many juvenile offenders. It prohibits states from holding juveniles for more than seven days on so-called status offenses, such as truancy or running away from home. And it all but eliminates the practice of holding juveniles in adult prisons. He should be talking about that, but it wouldn’t play well with his base.

On its face, juvenile systems are set up to support families and help children continue academically. That doesn’t happen as often as it should. Clearly, juvenile systems are in dire need of reform and the resources necessary to deliver measurable results. But he isn’t interested in the results. He isn’t interested in investing in children. For Trump, criminal justice reform was just another celebrity photo-op.

Luckily, he won’t be dining on McDonald’s take-out aboard Air Force One ever again. Maybe citizen Trump will just take out a full page ad in the New York Times, calling for the execution of five innocent Black boys.

Oh, wait, he did that already.

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