The School-to-Prison Pipeline: A Critical Review of the Punitive Paradigm Shift

Abstract

This paper reviews evidence of the school-to-prison pipeline, a confluence of two child- and adolescent-caring systems—schools and juvenile courts—that simultaneously shifted over the past generation from rehabilitative to punitive paradigms. While there was crossover impact between these systems, the movements were both independent and inter-dependent. In the school systems, and particularly those that are overburdened and underfinanced, many students have been increasingly suspended and expelled due to criminalizing both typical adolescent developmental behaviors as well as low-level type misdemeanors: acting out in class, truancy, fighting, and other similar offenses. The increased use of zero tolerance policies and police (safety resource officers) in the schools has exponentially increased arrests and referrals to the juvenile courts. While impacting many, unfortunately, these changes disproportionately affect vulnerable children, adolescents, and their families. Thus, millions of young people have become encapsulated in harmful punitive systems. Very few of these young people are actually appropriately involved, in that they do not pose safety risks to their schools or communities. Thus, the school-to-prison pipeline does not improve school or community safety.

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Mallett, C.A. The School-to-Prison Pipeline: A Critical Review of the Punitive Paradigm Shift. Child Adolesc Soc Work J 33, 15–24 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10560-015-0397-1

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Keywords

  • School
  • Discipline
  • Prison
  • Pipeline
  • Safety
  • Adolescent