“Parental Incarceration Has Worsened Disparities Between Black, White Children”

Black Star Journal: “A pair of sociologists has taken a ruler to the role that parental incarceration plays in childhood inequality, only to learn that a measuring wheel might have been a more appropriate tool.

By the time they reached age 14, a quarter of black babies born in 1990 had seen a parent go to jail or prison, Sara Wakefield of Rutgers University-Newark and Christopher Wildeman of Yale University write in Children of the Prison Boom: Mass Incarceration and the Future of American Inequality, a book published in December by the Oxford University Press.

By contrast, that rate was 14 percent for black babies born just 12 years earlier, in 1978. What happened between those two periods is that the U.S. incarceration rate exploded; it is currently both the highest in the world and the highest it has ever been.

For whites, the percentages of children with incarcerated parents also increased, but remained much lower. About 3 percent of white babies born in 1990 had witnessed parental incarceration by age 14, as compared to 1 percent of white babies born in 1978.

The study focused on black and white children because the differences are starker and also because large-scale data sets have classified Hispanics inconsistently throughout the years, making it difficult to assess the impact of parental incarceration.

“We anticipate that the results we discuss here would apply in much the same direction (if not magnitude) to Hispanic children,” the authors write.

Overall, more than 3 percent of American children (2.7 million) have a parent in prison on any given day.

“To put this in perspective, consider that about 1 percent (or 1 million) American children will experience divorce this year. … Another 3 percent will witness domestic violence. … About 1 percent of American children are on the autism spectrum … and 6 percent are academically gifted,” Wakefield and Wildeman write.

They add: ”Perhaps the best evidence of how widespread the experience of incarceration has become is found in the creation of a new Muppet in 2013 by the iconic children’s show ‘Sesame Street.’ An online tool kit of resources for children of incarcerated parents accompanied the introduction of Alex, a Muppet with an incarcerated father.”

In some extreme circumstances, the researchers found, parental imprisonment may protect a child, especially if the father has a history of inflicting domestic abuse. (The book focuses on children with incarcerated fathers, since female-incarceration rates, while growing, remain small.) However, for most children, this circumstance is simply not the case. Wakefield and Wildeman write that the five-fold increase in children with incarcerated parents that has occurred since 1980 has largely been fueled by locking up nonviolent offenders who tend to have family ties and histories of employment.”

Read the rest of the article here.

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Youth March From Detroit to Lansing Against Zero Tolerance Policies

“Students, parents challenge zero-tolerance policies”

Detroit Free Press: DETROIT — Michael Reynolds is willing to go to extremes to shed light on what he says is a big problem: zero-tolerance policies that are driving kids like him out of school for often-minor offenses.

He and dozens of others will march from Detroit to Lansing from Monday to Wednesday to draw attention to their concerns and to urge schools to adopt policies that limit lengthy expulsions and suspensions to the most serious offenses.

“It hurts me because schools are pushing kids out in the streets,” said Michael, 16, co-president of Youth Voice, the group organizing the march. “If we’re in the streets, nothing good can come of it. I think sometimes the schools set us up for failure.”

Michael missed a week of class last year after being suspended for breaking a school rule.

The walk is happening at a time when officials at the state and national level are raising concerns that too many kids are being kicked out of school for non-serious offenses. The State Board of Education is expected to take action next month on a proposed model policy for reducing suspensions and expulsions – one that urges schools to reserve such practices for “only the most serious offenses, and to adopt practices that allow educators to address disciplinary matters as opportunities for learning.”

Read the rest of the article here.

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Video: Why Zero Tolerance is 100% Unequal?

A good short primer about zero tolerance and the school-to-prison pipeline.

Posted in Criminalizing Youth, Harsh Disciplinary Policies, School Pushout, School to Prison Pipeline, School-based arrests | Leave a comment

Jesse Williams of “Grey’s Anatomy” Talks School Pushout On Arsenio Hall: “America as a whole needs to make some changes”

Known for his role on “Grey’s Anatomy” and his good looks, Jesse Williams also has had some poignant commentary on white supremacy, “criminalization of the black body” and African American representation in cinema. Listen to him talk here about his efforts to demolish the School-to-Prison pipeline:

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“CPS Students Want State Lawmakers To Fix ‘Broken’ School Discipline Policies”

Progress Illinois: “A group of Chicago students is ratcheting up the pressure on state lawmakers to get behind “common-sense” school disciplinary policies.

Students leaders with Voices of Youth in Chicago Education (VOYCE) argue zero tolerance discipline policies have resulted in zero gains in schools across the state. Dozens of students demonstrated at the Chicago Public Schools’ (CPS) downtown headquarters Wednesday morning before marching to the Thompson Center to call on state officials, including Gov. Pat Quinn, to fix “broken” school discipline policies across Illinois. The group wants state lawmakers to set limitations on the use of disciplinary actions that eat up classroom learning time and have a disproportionate impact on students of color.

“Students want to stay in school. Students want to learn, and they want discipline (policies) that make sense,” said Jose Sanchez, VOYCE’s Safe Schools Consortium coordinator.

There were more than 272,000 out-of-school student suspensions at publicly-funded schools across Illinois in the 2011-2012 school year as well as some 2,400 expulsions and over 10,000 arrests, according to VOYCE’s data analysis of figures from the U.S. Department of Education’s civil rights division.”

Read the rest here.


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“Does Putting Children In Jail Solve Anything?”

Social Work Helper: “During a single year, an estimated 2.1 million youth under the age of 18 are arrested in the United States. When we think of mass incarceration, we cannot just think of adults. Countless boys and girls are funneled from schools and neighborhoods to the juvenile justice system each year, often followed by what seems to be the inevitable entry into the adult criminal justice world and its facilities.

What are the effects of the “School-to-prison” pipeline? Students of color face  harsher punishments in school than their white peers, leading to a higher number of youth of color incarcerated. Black and Hispanic students represent more than 70 percent of those involved in school-related arrests or referrals to law enforcement. Currently, African Americans make uptwo-fifths and Hispanics one-fifth of confined youth today.

According to recent data by the Department of Education, African American students are arrested far more often than their white classmates. The data showed that 96,000students were arrested and 242,000 referred to law enforcement by schools during the 2009-10 school year. Of those students, black and Hispanic students made up more than 70 percent of arrested or referred students. Harsh school punishments, from suspensions to arrests, have led to high numbers of youth of color coming into contact with the juvenile-justice system and at an earlier age.

African American youth have higher rates of juvenile incarceration and are more likely to be sentenced to adult prison. According to the Sentencing Project, even though African American juvenile youth are about 16 percent of the youth population, 37 percent of their cases are moved to criminal court and 58 percent of African American youth are sent to adult prisons.”

Read the rest here.

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Dramatic Transformation of A School In Inner City Denver After Restorative Justice Implemented

Restorative Justice Online:

“Defending restorative discipline

by Jeremy Simons

When I started working at Cole Middle School in inner city Denver in 2003, it was ranked dead last in the entire state of Colorado, with proficiency scores on standardized testing (CSAP) in the single digits. It would later be shut down by the state and turned into a charter school, which was also closed after 3 years, in a bizarre attempt at school “accountability.”

Student misbehavior went hand in hand with the academic problems, with hundreds of students suspended every year and substitute teachers bullied out of the building by students. Local residents called the school a “gang factory.” Police cruisers were regularly parked outside with officers escorting students out between the elegant Doric columns supporting the main entrance, grand reminders of forgotten days when the school produced graduates rather than criminals. It was a sad example of what community activists and parents were just beginning to call the “school to prison pipeline”.

A year later, a dramatic turn around occurred, and Cole Middle School was awarded the outstanding safe school award for all schools in the state of Colorado by Project Pave, a violence prevention organization in Colorado. Student suspensions had been cut in half, and police citations (remember, these are middle school kids barely in their teens) had plummeted 85%.

What happened at Cole M.S. that led to this remarkable change?

There is not one single item that caused this dramatic improvement in school climate, rather a confluence of initiatives combined with tough leadership at the school level were tipping points:

1)   A new principal was brought in who combined determination, a capacity to deal with students and families coming from difficult circumstances and the ability to build a team of educators with shared commitments and expectations of student behavior and performance.

2)   A consistent school “climate” initiative and a restorative discipline system were instituted that emphasized re-integrating erring students into the school community through problem solving, face-to-face dialogue between conflicting students and alternative sanctions. Traditional punishment – suspensions and expulsions – were sometimes used, but only as a last resort.

3)   Support services were ramped up, including special education pull-out classes, in-house social workers, afterschool programs and community outreach by staff and local leaders. This kind of effort has been systematized into what is now known as Positive Behavior Support.”

Read the rest here.


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“A Fascinating Way to Put a Stop to the School-to-Prison Pipeline for Black Children”

AlterNet: “Destiny was in eighth grade when, in the middle of an altercation with another student, she grabbed a teacher’s jacket and threw it out of a classroom window.

She was enrolled at the Lyons Community School in Brooklyn, N.Y., where almost every kid is black or Latino and living in poverty. Only five percent are meeting standards in math and reading.

New federal data shows that across the United States, schools with demographics like these tend to respond to bad behavior with aggressive force. Principals put students as young as four years old into isolation rooms or suspension, kicking them off campus for days or even weeks at a time. School-based police officers — in New York City there are more of them than there are school psychologists or social workers — sometimes respond to offenses as trivial as talking back to a teacher with physical restraints or even arrest.

But Destiny was not isolated, suspended or arrested. She wasn’t even sent to detention. Instead, wearing gold hoop earrings and a t-shirt with a big pink heart, she appeared, a little jittery, before a “justice panel” of four teenage peers. They listened to Destiny’s side of the story (she didn’t know the jacket belonged to the teacher, she said) and determined her punishment: a face-to-face apology to the teacher, two days of community service cleaning up her classroom during lunch, and a follow-up conference with the peer panel to discuss what she had learned from the incident.

As depicted in a 2013 documentary called “ Growing Fairness,” Destiny accepted her sentence without complaint. An adult dean supervised the proceedings, but did not intervene.

These new kid courts, in which students are empowered to set school rules and mete out the punishments for breaking them, are sometimes called “restorative justice.” The concept, borrowed from the world of legal mediation, shows real evidence of working in schools. Using restorative tactics, Lyons decreased its suspension rate by more than 20 percent since 2008.

Now Lyons is part of a growing national movement of educators offering a practical alternative to harsh “zero tolerance” school discipline policies, which proliferated in the wake of the 1999 shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado. Though the Columbine massacre was perpetrated by two white students at a majority-white, suburban school, it is urban students of color who have shouldered the heaviest burdens of the zero-tolerance push. Those kids have the most to gain from radically upending how school discipline gets done.”

Read the rest here.

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Alternatives to Calling Police on Young People – Amazing Popular Education Project, “Chain Reaction”

“Chain Reaction” is a unique popular education project that supports alternatives to calling police on young people – it elevates the voices and perspectives of youth through audio, visuals, a toolkit and much more. Check it out here.

“Chain Reaction is a participatory research and popular education project with the goal of supporting conversations about alternatives to calling police on young people. Listen to our audio or watch our videos that feature youth in Chicago telling their own stories about policing, or check out our growing toolkit of other resources. And we have audio FAQs for your listening pleasure.

When police intervene in situations involving youth, ranging from loitering and petty crimes to more severe violence, police involvement typically sets off a chain of events that can have far-reaching effects on a young person’s life. Chain Reaction is a volunteer-run, youth-driven project that aims to interrupt that chain reaction in the city of Chicago. The project is complete for the moment, and this website is the result of our efforts.

We started by documenting these effects from the perspective of young people in Chicago who have had direct encounters with police.

Then we hosted listening session, asking people to reflect upon a set of questions within the context of their own communities:

1. What is the chain reaction that we would ideally like to create in response to fear, violence, or harm?

2. What resources do we already have in our communities to begin this chain reaction?

3. What alternatives to calling police exist for those considering relying on police interventions with young people?

4. What alternatives would we like to create?

Finally, Chain Reaction created a curriculum so that others can replicate this project and use it to explore alternatives to policing in your own own communities.

Founded in 2011, Chain Reaction is a volunteer-run initiative of Project NIA, which is a Chicago community organization with the goal of ending youth incarceration. Find out how we work and how to do a project like this one in your own community.”

Taken from the ‘About‘ section.

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“Campaign for Restorative Justice Gains Ground in Santa Ana”

Voice of OC:

“Santa Ana activists have been on a mission to have government leaders transform the way they deal with youths who commit crimes.

And on Monday evening, their effort took another step forward.

At a meeting of the city’s Public Safety and Neighborhood Improvement Committee, three City Council members signaled their support for a restorative justice pilot program centered on community conferencing.

Instead of being sent straight to juvenile hall, a select number of youth offenders would be given a chance to meet face-to-face with their victims and work to repair the damage they’ve caused.

Proponents say the approach has been proven to reduce offenders’ chances of committing crimes again, in addition to healing broken trust within communities and preventing damage from future offenses.

“Data shows that they are less likely to re-offend” after going through this process, said Rafael Solorzano, a coordinator with Santa Ana Boys and Men of Color.

Speaking on behalf of his group and The California Endowment, Solorzano gave a detailed presentation on restorative justice to city officials, saying it’s a model that many Santa Ana community members want to see the city move toward.

“We have to have a culture shift, a paradigm shift” around what questions we ask when kids commit wrongdoing, he said.

Restorative justice calls for having offenders recognize and repair the harm created by their crimes and address the needs of their victims instead of focusing primarily on punishment.

Council members said that while they still have some questions to resolve, they’re generally in favor of the effort.

“I am very supportive. I think it is needed,” said Councilwoman Michele Martinez, who added that her brother went to juvenile hall as a boy before cycling in and out of jail and prison.

“And now as a 32-year-old, 33-year-old, he has not been able in many respects to understand what it is to live in a society that we all live in … because he’s been incarcerated so much,” Martinez said.”

Read the rest here.

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“Youth Incarceration Is Down But Not For Youth Of Color”

“OAKLAND, Calif., April 1, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The National Council on Crime and Delinquency (NCCD) has published a series of reports regarding the dramatic reduction of youth incarceration rates in most US states. The latest data from the US Justice Department showed that the rate of youth in confinement dropped 41% between 2001 and 2011. Since 2001, 48 states have experienced such a decline.

Yet, despite the overall reduction in incarceration rates among youth, much higher percentages of youth of color remain under formal supervision and in state secure facilities. Dr. Angela Irvine, an author of the study and the director of research in NCCD’s Oakland office, said, “States across the country have been successful at reducing the overall numbers of youth in the juvenile justice system. At the same time, youth of color have jumped from 68% to 81% of all youth sentenced in juvenile court. In order to reverse this trend, we will have to find solutions that we’ve never tried before on a large scale—solutions that come from the communities most impacted by incarceration.”

NCCD collected information for the study through interviews and listening sessions involving than 140 key stakeholders, who were well-versed in research that exposes the problems associated with unnecessary contact with the juvenile justice system.”
Read the rest here.

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“At Reedley (CA) High School, Suspensions Drop 40%, Expulsions 80% In Two Years”

Social Justice Solutions: “In 2009, when the Kings Canyon Unified School District in California’s rural Central Valley offered its 19 schools the opportunity to adopt a system that would reduce school suspensions and expulsions, Reedley High School jumped at the chance.

Today, Reedley is in its fourth year of changing a zero-tolerance policy that has failed this school and community miserably, just as every zero-tolerance policy across the country has. The school, which has 1,900 students, is feeling its way out of those draconian days by integrating PBIS — Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support — and entering into a unique partnership with the West Coast Mennonite Central Committee and the local police department to implement a successful restorative justice program.

This approach is already having remarkable effect. The school saw a 40% drop in suspensions from the 2010-2011 to the 2012-2013 school year — from 401 to 249 suspensions involving198 and 80 students, respectively. Expulsions went from 94 in 2010-2011 to 20 last year. But this year’s trends indicate that impressive decline may have stalled out.

Although everyone interviewed for this story – including the principal, learning director, and a teacher — says that suspensions don’t work, Reedley is still stuck with a harsh suspension policy that the district and the school board have barely loosened. Although the district was forward-thinking enough to support program changes and the school is beginning to deliver, like any entrenched system, the old ways of discipline pull hard against change, even if the data and the science that show the old ways damage kids are indisputable.

“It’s been a journey,” says Mary Ann Carousso head of student services. “We’re taking it in pieces.”


The sprawling Reedley High School campus includes an auditorium, library, and five hexagonal and several rectangular rows of classrooms around a large two-story building. On a clear winter day, the snow-capped Sierra Mountains form a stunning backdrop. As in most large high schools, adults barely corral the high-octane teen energy that erupts across the plaza between classes, and struggle to ignite and channel it during classes. The school draws as many students from the city of 25,000 as it does from the agricultural farming country it serves – nearly 80% are Latino, 16% are white, 1.5% are Asian, 1% are Filipino, and 0.7% are African-American. About 65% come from families that live just above, at, or below poverty level. The nearest city, Fresno, is 25 miles distant and worlds away.

Like most school districts in California, Kings Canyon adopted a zero-tolerance policy in the late 1990s. Just one year after the U.S. Congress passed the Gun-Free Schools Act of 1994, theadoption of broad zero-tolerance policies spread like a virus across the United States. Once zero tolerance was locked in, school boards, districts, teachers and principals warped it, some say, by the pressure to perform well on tests. Kick the troublemakers out, and there’s less disruption and interruption in class.

But in the mid-2000s, data began showing that zero tolerance wasn’t working. In fact, it was shunting kids into a school-to-prison pipeline that disproportionately targets minorities. The research, the U.S. Office of Civil Rights and the American Civil Liberties Unionconvinced people at the Fresno County Office of Education to look for alternatives for its 32 districts, which include Kings County.

“The research was constantly telling us that even one suspension could put a kid down a path we don’t want them on,” says Carousso. Providing reports to the U.S. Office of Civil Rights and being watched by the ACLU also put Fresno County on notice. “Even though I’m not always glad of it,” Carousso says of the ACLU, “they point out things we should be aware of.”

The program that Fresno County settled on was PBIS, which is used in more than 20,011 schools nationwide; more than 700 of those are in California. In essence, says Carousso, PBIS helps the entire school system — teachers, administrators, janitors, bus drivers, cafeteria workers — “set up kids for success first, instead of ‘gotcha’. It sounds hokey. It sounds corny.” But it works…to a point.”

Read the rest here.


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