By Angela Grant
PRISON REFORM BENEFITS EDUCATION REFORM | Part 2
At one time, many believed that all Blacks were criminals. Even I started to fear my own people. The power of the media in creating illusions should never be dismissed.
The War on Drugs neither reduced drug overdoses nor drug ingestion. WOD harmed innocent children and their families by depriving children of education and placing them in toxic environments (prisons) where they were physically abused and sexually molested (by the United States government).
Over sustained periods, violent environments lacking support produce toxic stress. Toxic stress is a well-established risk factor for both physical and mental illnesses (stress is a major factor underlying the pathology of chronic medical conditions). Toxic stress is chronic stress without a supportive network.
Toxic stress compounds pre-existing risk factors in children, as much as four to six times over children with similar risk factors who are not exposed toxic stress, because they have supportive adult networks.
Table 1 List of High Risk Behaviors (Factors)
Again, I repeat: public schools are the main pipelines to prisons. School-to-prison pipelines are massive problems in communities of color with zero tolerance, racial profiling, and school-to-prison policies, relegating school discipline to prisons. Children who act out are considered difficult to teach, consuming scarce and valued time. What else can overworked teachers and educators working in understaffed schools do with children considered to be “trouble-makers?” One thought would be to do their jobs as educators in a challenging environment.
Public schools through private prisons expose inner-city children, already shackled, with risk factors to dreadful mixtures of human depravity, bondage and isolation, as well as unnecessary cruelty, violence, torture, sexual molestation, humiliation, physical abuse and death. In the United States of America, children with behavioral issues are treated in prisons regardless of their age, diagnosis of mental illness, and lack of appropriate comprehensive evaluation.
How effective are prisons in preparing children for corporate America? Perhaps that’s the point and the reason for this expanding pipeline.
A study of 35,000 former Chicago public school students (4), completed by Anna Aizer of Brown University and Joseph Doyle Jr. of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, showed:
Unsurprisingly, going to jail as a kid has “strong negative effects” on a child’s chance to get an education. Youth that went to prison were 39 percentage points less likely to finish high school than other kids who were from the same neighborhood. Even young offenders who weren’t imprisoned were better off; they were thirteen percent more likely to finish high school than their incarcerated peers.
More surprisingly, given that prison was supposed to deter crime, why was the recidivism rate so high? Three out of four prisoners return to prison after 5 years in state jails. That is a 75% recidivism rate! Going to jail made kids more likely to offend again. Young offenders who were incarcerated were a staggering 67 percent more likely to be in jail (again) by the age of 25 than similar young offenders who didn’t go to prison. Moreover, a similar pattern held true for serious crimes. Aizer and Doyle found that incarcerated youths were more likely to commit “homicide, violent crime, property crime and drug crimes” than those that didn’t serve time.
These findings are particularly troubling given that kids are often sent to the criminal justice system for relatively minor offenses.
The brain’s prefrontal cortex of a child does not fully develop until around 25-30 years old. Incarcerating children for mistakes – such as drug possession or bullying – teaches the wrong lesson, stunts personal growth, and exponentially increases baseline risk factors for many already disadvantaged children surrounded by high risk behaviors. Prisons create more risk factors and ensure children fail by limiting their paths to one of darkness, without opportunities for light, often ever again.
Children cannot communicate their feelings as well as adults, so they do what children do best: act out.
Public schools, soon to be ‘charter schools’, are similar to private prisons, cataloguing children by name, rank and future potential inmate ID. Public school pipelines to prison are well-funded, lucrative and powerful alliances that exploit children, families, and communities by turning the lights off on brighter futures while damning innocent children to lives of deep psychological pain and violence.
Some more questions…
Are teachers and educators listening to their customers (ie. students and their parents/guardians)?
What are children telling teachers and educators? Few teachers take time to listen or inquire, and we have few indicators to measure student satisfaction with education.
Are teachers better educators with children in prisons instead of classrooms? How can teachers and educators create positive school climates?
How much does the average inner city class size shrink due to imprisonment of students by the end of the year? What is the impact of these policies on other students?
A system of care approach that applies Big Data is a scalable and fully customizable model for making education relevant and appropriate, leading to healthy, productive children.
Our culturally diverse country makes one-sized education to fit all communities unpalatable and irrelevant for many cultures. A system of care approach empowers communities to set priorities around needs of children and their families while employing resources within the community.
A system of care approach is one of many collaborative approaches to education and metrics that empower communities through community participation and engagement.
Armed with Big Data, education and law enforcement will be more responsive to communities, which will be the more informed… I hope!
In the words of Brother Malcolm:
You can’t separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.- Malcolm X
Part 1 of 2 PRISON REFORM BENEFITS EDUCATION REFORM | Part 1