Critical Criminology

, Volume 21, Issue 1, pp 47–71 | Cite as

The Race to Punish in American Schools: Class and Race Predictors of Punitive School-Crime Control

  • Katherine IrwinEmail author
  • Janet Davidson
  • Amanda Hall-Sanchez


Despite the general agreement that US schools have become increasingly punitive since the 1980s, researchers are uncertain about what types of schools use tough-on-crime measures. Some assert that punitive control is concentrated in poor, predominantly ethnic minority schools. Governing-through-crime scholars argue that US schools with mostly middle-class and white students are also punitive, but in less harsh ways using soft surveillance techniques. Relying on data from large, stratified samples of middle and secondary US public schools, we found that high rates of ethnic minority enrollment predicted heavy reliance on law enforcement and security personnel. As rates of student poverty increased, use of soft surveillance techniques as well as reporting students to the police significantly increased. Implications for governing-through-crime, racial control, and reproduction of inequalities theories are discussed.


White Student Critical Criminologist Harsh Punishment Ethnic Minority Student School Discipline 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Katherine Irwin
    • 1
    Email author
  • Janet Davidson
    • 2
  • Amanda Hall-Sanchez
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of Hawai’i, ManoaHonoluluUSA
  2. 2.Department of Criminology and Criminal JusticeChaminade UniversityHonoluluUSA
  3. 3.Department of SociologyUniversity of Hawai’i, ManoaHonoluluUSA

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