The school-to-prison pipeline refers to a set of policies, practices and conditions that criminalize educational environments and treat youth of color as criminals rather than students. Critics argue that the school-to-prison pipeline funnels low-income youth of color out of the school system and into the criminal justice system.
- What. Several policies make up the school-to-prison pipeline--particularly harsh disciplinary policies for minor infractions. The zero tolerance policy was designed to pre-determine punishment for crimes committed in schools. Under zero tolerance, a student who commits an infraction will face a harsh punishment without regard to context (e.g. even if you’re responding to someone bullying you, you will face heavy consequences). As a result, critics argue these policies result in inhumane treatment of young people. Students are more likely to be arrested in schools today than they were a generation ago. Law enforcement officers, not teachers, are responsible for handling misconduct in some schools. Black and Latino students make up approximately 70% of these school-related arrests, and many critics argue that schools fund these policies by cutting essential academic and extracurricular programs for students who need them the most--like low-income urban and rural students.
- Who. There are 2.3 million people incarcerated in the U.S. and more than 60% of those prisoners are black or Latino (note that black and Latino people make up about 30% of the U.S.'s total population). The U.S. also holds 25% of the world’s inmates but comprises only 5% of the world's population.
- Truth in Media. Mumia Abu-Jamal is an African-American convict who speaks about these policies and their effect on people of color in the U.S. Though imprisoned, Mumia continues to inspire thousands of people by speaking out through his thinking, writing, and activism.
- Speak Up. Support education, not incarceration! Do you know someone who has been incarcerated? If you or someone you know has been a victim of the school-to-prison pipeline, let your voice be heard on Power Poetry.