What is the School-to-Prison Pipeline?

*photos by Vox

It's January, school is finally back in session, and the powers that be are back at work again. While school seems like a safe haven for kids, it's just another obstacle for minority students to overcome. I'm sure in recent years you've heard of the school-to-prison pipeline at least once regarding the American educational system. If you havent, well, where exactly have you been?


Schools have ultimately become the way in which we recruit our future prisoners. It pretty much started in the 90s when our education system drastically changed in response to crime rates. Rules in schools swtiched as a method to cut down on bad behavior. It was supposed to be a precautionary measure, and in all honesty, the intentions were good. But some of these methods ended up causing an adverse reaction. 

Automatic punishments that result in immediate suspension and/or out of class time have lead drop out rates to increase, especially for students of color. And since the introduction of cops in schools we've seen obvious racial disparity between students and how they're punished. These cops we're meant as a means of protection from tragic events like Columbine, but they have become a way to harshly punish students, students who are often times black.



Schools are more like to have a cop on their campus if the school population is over 50% black, and schools with officers have five times as many arrests for disorderly conduct than school without cops. Those two stats alone show you just how the educational system is helping to feed the racial disparity here in America. On average 1 in 6 students in school are black, but black students account for one out of three arrests. 


Black students are also suspended or expelled at a much more alarming rate than their white peers. So what does this mean? Well, it means that schools help to directly fill our prisons with people of color. Over half of our incarcerated population are either black or latino. The harsh punishments given to students of color have dissauded them from school completely. The reality is, the time these student are forces to spend out of school (for probably doing nothing) makes them not want to go back. As we all know, the less education you have the more likely you are to go to jail. In fact, your three times more likely to get arrested Less education makes it harder to get employed and leads to fewer opportunities. Without these opportunities, these students turn to a life of crime just to get by.

So how do we fix it? Well there are methods that some schools are trying in order to fix this issue. One is called "Restorative Justice," a program that gives students the chance to talk out their issues along side a counselor instead of being immediately punished. The schools that have tried this have seen rates of chronic absenteeism drop and graduation rates increase. So there is hope, but these programs haven't been implemented everywhere, and racial disparity still plagues our school system negatively. In order to fix these issues we must make a serious drastic changes, quickly. We have to show our students that school isn't a trap before they're too far gone.