Panel on Friday seeks to plug the pipeline from school to prison

The Charleston Alternative to Incarceration Panel and Discussion will take place Friday at the main branch Charleston County Public Library.

Leaders from youth intervention groups and the Charleston County School District will host a panel discussion Friday on how to keep young people in schools and out of the juvenile justice system.

The Charleston Alternative to Incarceration Panel and Discussion will take place from 2 to 4:30 p.m. Friday at the Charleston County Public Library’s main branch at 68 Calhoun St. Admission is free, but organizers have asked guests to RSVP online.

Featured speakers will include Executive Director Ruben Austria of Community Connections for Youth, a New York nonprofit organization that helps neighborhood and faith-based groups set up intervention programs for troubled youth.

Other speakers include Aleksandra Chauhan, an assistant public defender in Richland County, and Jennifer Coker, director of Alternative Programs for the Charleston County School District.

The event is hosted by Girls Rock Charleston, which runs summer and after-school programs for girls and transgender youth.

The event comes as Charleston County school leaders seek to reduce incarceration and suspension of students — particularly minority students. A recent analysis of juvenile arrest data from Charleston County schools found that black students, who make up 40 percent of the student population, account for 83 percent of students charged with criminal offenses.

“We don’t want our consequence or our reaction to impair (students) for the rest of their lives,” Coker said in an interview last week.

“So we have to be able to help mold them into productive citizens, and if they’re not in school, we’re not helping them do that.”

Reach Paul Bowers at 843-937-5546 or