The school to prison pipeline aligns with the rise in the prison industrial complex and mass incarceration in the United States over the past several decades. School cultures have shifted in this same period to increasingly more punitive, harsh environments complete with onsite law enforcement and metal detectors that in many cases, resemble jails. Implementation of disciplinary school policy referred to as, zero tolerance, leads to increased suspensions and expulsions, in school arrests, a lack in education, and ultimately the hyper-criminalization of young people, predominantly, youth of color.
Research informs us that juvenile incarceration is the strongest predictor of adult incarceration and that suspension of youth while in school significantly raises the likelihood of a young person dropping out and that they will be incarcerated. Thus, our schools are creating a pipeline that pushes youth and puts them on a path to prison instead of a path to success and productive adulthood.