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From Education to Incarceration

Dismantling the School-to-Prison Pipeline

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Anthony J. Nocella II, Priya Parmar and David Stovall

The school-to-prison pipeline is a national concern, from the federal to local governments, and a leading topic in conversations in the field of urban education and juvenile justice. From Education to Incarceration: Dismantling the School-to-Prison Pipeline is a ground-breaking book that exposes the school system’s direct relationship to the juvenile justice system. The book reveals various tenets contributing to unnecessary expulsions, leaving youth vulnerable to the streets and, ultimately, behind bars. From Education to Incarceration is a must-read for parents, teachers, law enforcement, judges, lawyers, administrators, and activists concerned with and involved in the juvenile justice and school system. The contributors are leading scholars in their fields and experts on the school-to-prison pipeline.
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Chapter Twelve: At the End of the Pipeline: Can the Liberal Arts Liberate the Incarcerated?

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← 191 | 192 → CHAPTERTWELVE

In the United States, incarceration is an epidemic. Incarceration has replaced education as the life course for millions of adolescents and young adults. According to the Higher Education Policy report “Unlocking Potential: Results of a National Survey of Postsecondary Education in State Prisons,” an estimated 2.3 million people are incarcerated in the United States (Gorgol & Spensler, 2011). On any given day, more than 1 in 100 adults are in jail or prison (Warren, 2008). As Alexander (2010) so powerfully argues, incarceration has become the new caste system in the United States, and there are powerful systemic mechanisms that ensure a permanent incarcerated underclass, largely composed of men of color. We must join forces to abolish both the mechanisms of social control as well as the prisons that perpetuate such systematic injustice.

We need not look further than our local schools to find one of the primary and precipitating sources of this systematic mechanism of injustice, one that relentlessly serves up adolescent boys to the jaws of incarceration. A school-prison nexus (Winn, 2011) comprises several factors that combine to doom many youth, especially urban youth of color, to a life path where incarceration is almost a near certainty. Meiners (2007), explains it this way: “Trapped in failing schools that are physically deteriorating, disciplined and moved into juvenile justice systems ← 192 | 193 → through violations of punitive zero tolerance policies, failing to pass high stakes standardized tests and channeled into special education programs, youth of...

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