Philadelphia Inquirer Features Kevin Bethel and Naomi Goldstein's Work on Successful Diversion Program

How a Philly cop broke the school-to-prison pipeline. | September 26, 2016
By Samantha Melamed

One morning in September 2014, when Jahnira Jones had just started seventh grade at Richard Allen Prep Charter School, her after-school plans weighed on her mind. She was supposed to take SEPTA to meet her mother near City Hall. "I was scared to go downtown," said Jahnira, now 15. It would be her first time taking public transit alone.

So she brought a Taser she'd found in her mother's room. But, on the school bus that morning, other kids wanted to see it. They passed it around. It was discharged, and a child was shocked.

If it had happened a year earlier, Jones would likely have been arrested: Bringing a weapon onto school property is a crime, and state law requires schools to call police. She would have been taken in handcuffs to a precinct, fingerprinted, photographed, and held in a cell for up to six hours. She would, for the first time in her life, be caught up in the juvenile justice system.

Instead, she got a second chance.