Criminal justice policy in the United States has for some time now spurned rehabilitation in favor of long and often permanent terms of incarceration, manifesting an overarching belief that there is no need to address root causes of crime and that many people who have committed crimes can never be anything but “criminals.” These policies have served to isolate and remove a massive number of people, a disproportionately large percentage of whom are people of color, from their communities and from participation in civil society.
In the last decade, the punitive and overzealous tools and approaches of the modern criminal justice system have seeped into our schools, serving to remove children from mainstream educational environments and funnel them onto a one-way path toward prison. These various policies, collectively referred to as the School-to-Prison Pipeline, push children out of school and hasten their entry into the juvenile, and eventually the criminal, justice system, where prison is the end of the road. Historical inequities, such as segregated education, concentrated poverty, and racial disparities in law enforcement, all feed the pipeline. The School-to-Prison Pipeline is one of the most urgent challenges in education today.