Advertisement

Springer Nature is making Coronavirus research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Ending the School-to-Prison Pipeline/Building Abolition Futures

Abstract

Placing prison abolition on the horizon for scholars committed to interrupting the flow of young people toward prisons and jails, this article offers movement analysis, frameworks and associated questions surrounding advocacy and engagement. First, I offer a brief state of the field of research and advocacy surrounding school-to-prison work. Building from this assessment, I identify four ongoing tensions within this field that is, by definition, theoretically explicitly linked to advocacy for justice. Our challenges include exceptionality, specifically our desires to center children and youth in our analysis and organizing, and concurrently how carceral practices continue to change the face of the state and require us to track how alternatives to incarceration are defined and organized. We also struggle to build sustainable and viable decarceration initiatives and to develop ways to make schools and communities safer, without augmenting a carceral state, and to address state and interpersonal violence, while integrating an intersectional analysis that includes lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and queer lives and feminist standpoints. Finally, I close with a push for scholars to continually evaluate professional investments, and invite readers to consider how our scholarly locations augment or constrain our ability to participate in building transformative schools and communities.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Notes

  1. 1.

    Queer encompasses not just gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered, but all non-heteronormative and non-gender conforming identifications.

  2. 2.

    For a more extensive discussion on the local economics of prison expansion, see Gilmore (2007). Gilmore documents how a small California town, Corcoran, lobbied for a prison, and providing local economic futures for young people was offered as the rationale for a prison (p. 171–172).

  3. 3.

    For example, simply asking select “good” gays to be recognized as equals by the state does not redistribute access to all the important resources attached, for example, to marriage.

  4. 4.

    And I believe that this is how, in anti-prison movements, those “too bruised by history” (Berlant, as cited in Rhodes 2005, p. 402) such as those convicted of sexual assault or child pornography, get dropped out of the movement.

  5. 5.

    Formal and ad hoc groups are focused on this nationally and I track their work: Story Telling and Organizing Project/Creative Inventions and the Audre Lorde Project/Safe Outside the System. Locally, I am involved with Project Nia, a group providing transformative justice. Accountability is difficult. We don’t have great tools but abolitionist organizations are at the forefront of trying to imagine and build new tools.

  6. 6.

    This research by Himmelstein and Bruckner follows a decade of work by advocacy organizations including the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Educators Network (GLSEN) that clearly outlines how LGBTQ and gender non-conforming youth are also disproportionately targeted for suspension and expulsions and also denied the right to an education (for example, see Kosciw and Diaz 2009).

References

  1. Acey, C. (2000). This is an Illogical statement: Dangerous trends in anti-prison activism. Social Justice Journal, 27(3), 206–211.

  2. Advancement Project. (2010). Test, punish, and push out: How “zero tolerance” and high-stakes testing funnel youth into the school-to-prison pipeline. D.C: Washington.

  3. Advocate Editors. (2011). Ind. School district settles with trans student. The Advocate. Retrieved from http://www.advocate.com/News/Daily_News/2011/01/28/Ind_School_District_Settles_With_Trans_Student/.

  4. Alexander, M. (2010). The new Jim Crow: Mass incarceration in the age of colorblindness. New York: The New Press.

  5. American Bar Association (Juvenile Justice Center). (2004), January. Cruel and unusual punishment. The juvenile death penalty: Adolescence, brain development and legal culpability, Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://www.abanet.org/crimjust/juvjus/Adolescence.pdf.

  6. Anderson, J. (1988). The education of blacks in the South, 1860–1935. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

  7. Anyon, J. (1980). Social class and the hidden curriculum of work. Journal of Education, 162, 67–92.

  8. Anyon, J. (2005). Radical possibilities. New York, NY: Routledge.

  9. Apple, M. (2010). Global crises, social justice, and education. New York, NY: Routledge.

  10. Ayers, W., Dorhn, B., & Ayers, R. (Eds.). (2001). Zero tolerance: Resisting the drive for punishment in our schools. New York, NY: The New Press.

  11. Braz, R. (2006). Kinder, gentler, gender responsive cages. Women, Girls and Criminal Justice: 87–91.

  12. Browne, J. A. (2003). Derailed: The school to jailhouse track. Report. Washington DC: The Advancement Project.

  13. Carr, E. S. (2010). Scripting addiction: The politics of therapeutic talk and American sobriety. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

  14. Crenshaw, K. W. (1994). Mapping the margins: Intersectionality, identity politics, and violence against women of color. In M. A. Fineman & R. Mykituk (Eds.), The public nature of private violence (pp. 93–118). New York, NY: Routledge.

  15. Davis, A. (2003). Are prisons obsolete?. New York, NY: Seven Stories Press.

  16. Davis, A. (2005). Abolition democracy: Prisons, democracy, and empire. New York, NY: Seven Stories.

  17. Duncan, G. A. (2000). Urban pedagogies and the celling of adolescents of color. Social Justice: A Journal of Crime Conflict and World Order, 27(3), 29–42.

  18. Faith, K. (2002). Reflections on inside/out organizing. Social Justice, 27(3), 158–167.

  19. Feel Tank Chicago (2008). Retrieved from Manifesto. http://www.feeltankchicago.net/.

  20. Ferguson, J. (1994). The anti-politics machine: “Development,” depoliticization and bureaucratic power in Lesotho. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

  21. Ferguson, A. A. (2000). Bad boys: Public schools in the making of black masculinity. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.

  22. Fine, M., Boudin, K., Bowen, I., Clark, J., Hylton, D., Martinez, M., et al. (2001). Changing minds: The impact of college in prison. Retrieved from http: www.changingminds.ws.

  23. Fine, M., & McClelland, S. (2006). Sexuality education and desire: Still missing after all these years. Harvard Educational Review, 76(3), 297–338.

  24. Fraser, N. (1997). Justice interruptus: Critical reflections on the “postsocialist” condition. New York, NY: Routledge.

  25. Gilliam, W. (2005). Prekindergarteners Left Behind: Expulsion Rates in State PreKindergarten Programs. FCD brief series No. 3. Retrieved August 10, 2010, from http://www.fcd-us.org/PDFs/ExpulsionFinalProof.pdf.

  26. Gilmore, R. W. (2007). Golden gulag: Prisons, surplus, crisis, and opposition in globalizing California. Berkeley CA: University of California Press.

  27. Gregory, A., Skiba, R., & Noguera, P. (2010). The achievement gap and the discipline gap: Two sides of the same coin? Educational Researcher 39(59).

  28. Haney, L. (2010). Offending women: Power, punishment, and the regulation of desire. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

  29. Harry, B., & Klingner, J. K. (2005). Why are there so many minority students in special education?: Understanding race & disability in schools. New York, NY: Teacher College Press.

  30. Hewitt, D., Kim, C., & Losen, D. (2010). The school to prison pipeline: Structuring legal reform. New York NY: NYU Press.

  31. Himmelstein, K., & Bruckner, H. (2011). Criminal-justice and school sanctions against non-heterosexual youth: A national longitudinal study. Pediatrics, 127(1), 48–57.

  32. Huston, W. (2010). CPS creates ‘calm’ environment for students. Chicago Defender. http://www.chicagodefender.com/article-7032-cps-creates-lscalmrs.html.

  33. Justice Policy Institute. (2002). Cellblocks or Classrooms? The Funding of Higher Education and Corrections and its Impact on African American Men. Retrieved from http://www.justicepolicy.org/images/upload/0209_REP_CellblocksClassrooms_BBAC.pdf.

  34. Kosciw, J. G., & Diaz, E. D. (2009). Shared differences: The experience of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered students of color in our nation’s schools. New York: GLSEN.

  35. Kumashiro, K. (2008). The seduction of common sense: How the right has framed the debate on America’s schools. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

  36. Lipman, P. (2004). High stakes education: Inequality, globalization, and urban school reform. New York: Routledge/Falmer.

  37. Liptak, A. (2010). Justices limit life sentences for juveniles. New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/18/us/politics/18court.html (Accessed June 10, 2010).

  38. López, N. (2003). Hopeful girls, troubled boys: race and gender disparity in urban education. New York: Routledge.

  39. Lorde, A. (1984). Sister outsider: Essays and speeches. New York, NY: The Crossing Press.

  40. Losen, D. J., & Orfield, G. (Eds.). (2002). Racial inequality in special education. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.

  41. Mauer, M. (1999). A race to incarcerate. New York: New Press.

  42. McCready, Lance. (2004). Understanding the marginalization of gay and gender non-conforming black male students. Theory Into Practice, 42(3), 136–143.

  43. McDermott, R., Goldman, S., & Varenne, H. (2006). The cultural work of learning disabilities. Educational Researcher, 35(6), 12–17.

  44. McNally, J. (2003). Black over-representation in special education not confined to segregation states. Rethinking Schools Online, 17(3).

  45. Meiners, E. (2007). Right to be hostile: schools, prisons and the making of public enemies. New York, NY: Routledge.

  46. Meiners, E., & Quinn, T. (2009). Doing and feeling research in public: queer organizing for public education and justice. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 23(2), 147–164.

  47. Lochner, L., & Moretti, E. (2004). The effect of education on crime: Evidence from prison inmates, arrests, and self-reports. American Economic Review, 94 (155).

  48. Nader, L. (1972). Up the anthropologist. In D. Hymes (Ed.), Reinventing anthropology (pp. 284–311). New York, NY: Vintage Books.

  49. Oakes, J. (1985). Keeping track: How schools structure inequality. Birmingham, N.Y.: Vail-Ballou Press.

  50. Petit, B., & Western, B. (2004). Mass imprisonment and the life course: Race and class inequality in U.S. incarceration. American Sociological Review, 69(2), 151–169.

  51. Pew Center on the States Public Safety Performance Project. (2008). One in 100: Behind Bars in America 2008. Retrieved from http://www.pewcenteronthestates.org/uploadedFiles/One%20in%20100.pdf.

  52. Polakow, V. (2000). The public assault on America’s children: Poverty, violence, and juvenile injustice. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

  53. Reid, D. K., & Knight, M. G. (2006). Disability justifies exclusion of minority students: A critical history grounded in disability studies. Educational Researcher, 35(6), 18–23.

  54. Rhodes, L. (2005). Changing the subject: Conversation in supermax. Cultural Anthropology, 20, 388–411.

  55. Richie, B. (2008). Dismantle, change, build. Left Turn, 30, 24.

  56. Robbins, C. (2008). Expelling hope: The assault on youth and the militarization of shooling. New York, NY: State University New York Press.

  57. Roberts, D. (1997). Killing the black body: Race, reproduction, and the meaning of liberty. New York NY: Vintage Books.

  58. Rofes, E. (2005). Status quo or status queer: A radical rethinking of sexuality and schooling. New York, NY: Rowman and Littlefield.

  59. Rose, N. (1999). Powers of freedom: Reframing political thought. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

  60. Saltman, K. J., & Gabbard, D. (Eds.). (2003). Education as enforcement: The militarization and corporatization of schools. New York, NY: RoutledgeFalmer.

  61. Simkins, S., Hirsh, A., Horvat, E., & Moss, M. (2004). The school to prison pipeline for girls: The role of physical and sexual abuse. Children’s Legal Rights Journal, 24(4), 56–72.

  62. Simmons, L. (2009). End of the line: Tracing racial inequality from school to prison. Race/Ethnicity: Multidisciplinary Global Perspectives, 2(2), 215–241.

  63. Skiba, R. J., & Knesting, K. (2002). Zero tolerance, zero evidence: An analysis of school disciplinary practice. In R. J. Skiba & G. G. Noam (Eds.), New directions for youth development (no. 92: Zero tolerance: Can suspension and expulsion keep schools safe?). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

  64. Skiba, R. J., Michael, R. S., Nardo, A. C., & Peterson, R. L. (2002). The color of discipline: Sources of racial and gender disproportionality in school punishment. The Urban Review, 34(2), 317–342.

  65. Smith, A. (2009). Native studies and critical pedagogy. In J. Sudbury & M. Okazawa-Rey (Eds.), Activist scholarship: Antiracism, feminism and social change. Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers.

  66. Smith, R. M., & Erevelles, N. (2004). Toward an enabling education: The difference that disability makes. Educational Researcher, 23(8), 31–36.

  67. Steurer, S. J., Tracy, A., & Smith, L. (2001). Three state recidivism study. Lanham, MD: Correctional Education Association.

  68. Strom, S. (2010). Mississippi A.C.L.U. Rejects $20,000 for alternate prom. New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/01/us/01prom.html.

  69. Taylor, J. (1992). Post-secondary correctional education: An evaluation of effectiveness and efficiency. Journal of Correctional Education, 43(3), 132–141.

  70. U.S. Department of Education. (1995). Pell grants for prisoners: Facts/Commentary. Washington D.C.: Office of Correctional Education.

  71. Wacquant, L. (2009). Punishing the poor: The neoliberal government of social insecurity. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

  72. Watkins, W. (2001). The white architects of black education: Ideology and power in America, 1865–1954. New York: Teachers College Press.

  73. Winn, M. (2010). Girl time: Literacy, justice, and the school-to-prison pipeline. New York, NY: Teacher’s College Press.

  74. Wolch, J. R. (1990). The shadow state: government and voluntary sector in transition. New York: The Foundation Center.

Download references

Acknowledgments

Many thanks to Bill Ayers, Laurie Fuller, Jean Hughes, Toussaint Losier, Therese Quinn, the editors of this special issue—Amy Swain and George Noblit—and to the fierce peeps at Critical Resistance.

Author information

Correspondence to Erica R. Meiners.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Meiners, E.R. Ending the School-to-Prison Pipeline/Building Abolition Futures. Urban Rev 43, 547 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11256-011-0187-9

Download citation

Keywords

  • Prison abolition
  • Educational justice
  • Anti-Racism
  • Gender and sexuality
  • Scholar-activisim