America’s flawed prison system and the school to prison pipeline – Detroit Community-Engaged Research Program

America’s flawed prison system and the school to prison pipeline

I can tell that this is going to be a relatively long blog post- due to my strong stance on this issue. As I continue my education, I have noticed flaws in U.S. society and the government policies that allow these flaws to occur. In particular, America’s broken prison system infuriates me. Throughout this summer, I have realized the impact that this has had in low income and minority communities, such as Southwest Detroit. My co-workers at DHDC have expressed a lot of concern for the School-to-Prison pipeline, and how zero tolerance policies have led to youth imprisonment.

A few weeks ago, the Economist featured America’s Penal system and discussed its many defects. I am an avid reader of the Economist, and I believe that this article accurately summed up how I feel about the system. The article is not about Detroit, but the issues that it discusses have a huge impact upon Detroit and the community that I work with.

Here’s the link:

And another article from the same issue:

“WITH less than 5% of the world’s population, the United States holds roughly a quarter of its prisoners: more than 2.3m people, including 1.6m in state and federal prisons and over 700,000 in local jails and immigration pens.”

The numbers say it all. The U.S. incarcerates more people than any other country in the world. And it is costing us a fortune! It price is roughly $34,000 per inmate per year, and the total bill is around $80 billion. We should be spending more on prevention programs, not expensive detention costs. In addition, the U.S. prison system is harsher towards Hispanics and African Americans. A THIRD OF YOUNG BLACK MEN will be INCARCERATED at some point in their lives. And Hispanics are imprisoned more than twice the rate of whites. This system is CLEARLY unjust.

It’s sad how petty drug crimes can result in a complete downward spiral in one’s life. Nixon’s War on Drugs, continued by Bill Clinton has proved disastrous for prison populations. This war has acted as a catalyst to the school to prison pipeline, with schools involving the police with drug cases. Once a student has a criminal record, our society deems them as an outcast, and dropout is almost inevitable.

My cousin got an assault charge at his high school because he threw a rock down the stairs one time and his principal saw. Police interaction was ostensibly not necessary in this situation, but because of zero-tolerance policies, he had this charge on his record. Thankfully, he was able to heard down the right path from then on, but for a lot of other students, after having their record tainted, they continue down a dangerous crime path. This is the School-to-Prison Pipeline: schools sending students to prison. It is a depressingly common occurrence, especially in minority communities. Hispanic and black students are often treated more harshly than their white peers when committing the same ‘crimes’ in school. So overall this pipeline affects minorities communities a lot more.

As a country, we need to accept that the harm caused by mass imprisonment exceeds its benefits. The national prison population has plateaued for the first time in decades, and hopefully we’ll see it declining in the future. For the sake of future generations, the United States needs to be cognizant of the cruelties committed to the citizens by the State.

2 thoughts on “America’s flawed prison system and the school to prison pipeline”

  1. It is a shame the way the American criminal system runs. It’s privatization is also a disaster within itself. The fact that a school to prison pipeline even exits goes to show how flawed our system truly is. I pray for the babies.

  2. This is an issue I’m interested in too. I was talking to my friend from Brazil, and she said that the government recently passed a bill that lowered the minimum age for a person to be incarcerated in prison (not a youth detention center) to 16. Brazil has a HUGE issue with race relations and although it is a diverse society like the US, it still has a long way to go in regards to institutional racism and so forth. I totally agree that funds should be put into education instead of prisons. I’ve read that a good education drastically decreases one’s chance of being incarcerated.

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