School to Prison Pipeline

school to prison pipeline

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.

Restorative Wisdom

Basically, the definition of the school-to-prison pipeline is all of the different ways that young people, students, find themselves pushed out of school, and then more readily criminalized and sent into the criminal punishment system. There are many ways that manifests itself, there are many forces that lead to it, many institutional factors. One of those is excessive suspensions and expulsions. It is true that young people who are suspended from school are three times more likely to drop out than young people who are not, and this is out of school suspensions in particular. Young people who are expelled, they basically find it difficult to come back and find another school that will accept them, or they decide that they’re just done, they decide to drop out. And if we look at the numbers of people in prisons in Illinois who dropped out of high school, I think the number is like, over 50%. So there’s a connection there between education and incarceration in more ways than one.
-Mariame Kaba, Project Nia

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