Rethinking The Correlations Between The School to Prison Pipeline System

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About this sample


6 pages /

2914 words

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6 pages /

2914 words

Downloads: 25

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Table of contents

  1. Executive Summary
  2. Introduction
  3. Scope of the Problem
  4. Pre-Existing Policy and Procedures
    Suspension and Affects to Adulthood
  5. Conclusion
  6. Policy Recommendations
  7. References

Executive Summary

There continues to be a large concern with the issue in how you address the school to prison pipeline system. While statistics may suggest that juvenile incarcerations rates may be decreasing and the severity of kids who end up in the juvenile justice system due to criminal activity is also on the decline there is still a looming concern on how they continue to end up there. Incarcerations systems are one issue but how you deal with people and respond to their behavior is another. As it stands the correlation may not seem all that grand, but this inverse relationship can suggest that policies are pushing kids out of school which makes them targets to the system that suggest they will not be a part of. The problem is that policy and procedure given to adolescents is what effects them directly versus indirectly and how they respond to that makes them the perfect candidates for a problem that creates a much larger connection. How they grow up and how they part take in a society that is supposed to make them successful adults.

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As it stands much of the procedure put in place aims to punish or suspend kids based on the severity of how they act or the actions that they become involved in. Due to this school systems become reliant on the use of a single method of discipline such as suspensions and creates a dilemma moving forward on how you address a troubled child. Considering you become dependent on a single method the result is suspension rates that only continue to increase, target specific minority groups and decreases the confidence and relationship that a student may have with their school administration. Couple this with falling behind in school and having late adolescent teens coming into contact with juvenile systems firsthand it comes with high certainty that schools are pushing these kids out causing them to an extent be unsuccessful. Policy and Procedure needs to change so that it tailors to our youth such as through extensive reform on how we address them. Some recommendations include counseling, restorative justice programs, implementing positive behavior support systems, limits to law enforcement and many others.


One of the main focal points towards the correlation between both school and prison systems is the majority of racial disparity that exists among the certain groups. What has been true for most of the criminal justice system is also true for the argument that exists between the school to prison pipeline where African Americans have felt the shift between education and being incarcerated. In 2000 “African Americans represented only 17% of public-school enrollment during this time but accounted for an excessive 34% of suspensions (Survey).” This as opposed to their white counter parts who can display similar kinds of behavioral misconduct and are less likely to be suspended, expelled or arrested (Skiba 2000). What becomes especially apparent is the association between the police and their use on school grounds. This phenomenon is relatively new when resource officers or law enforcement officers only constituted less than “one hundred officers in the late 1970s in public schools (Hirschfield & Celinska).” The numbers gradually have increased overtime and because of their excessive use the overall cost has also increased. School Resource Officers make up over $619 million a year assuming you were to employ over 19,000 of them full time and the number is astronomically more expensive if you were to employ them at every public school nationwide (James & Mccallion). The same amount of money that can be applied to other programs to dismantle the system that is targeting such individuals by setting them up for unsuccessful lives. There are different approaches that can be taken to lessen the impact and have to be analyzed more in depth. Approaches such as the use of punishment, counseling, social services, and the types of policies and procedures that have been implemented to this point. Due to how the educational system fails to address students we must approach them with more patience then short term solutions because what is becoming more fact is that black students and students with disabilities are more likely to be harshly punished for minor disciplinary subjective offenses than white students and due to this, other methods for encouraging students to succeed in school should be practiced as opposed to using punishment.

Scope of the Problem

Much of the problem that proceeds the connection between the pipeline is the methods that are used to understand behavior. The issue lies in how law enforcement establishes punishment without a crime actually being committed. When this relationship is established it most often is instilled in juveniles because the priority is laid on the foundation that punishment should be the source of establishing a larger influence in an adolescent’s life then education. This creates a force between two opposing forces trying to establish a better involvement in a juvenile’s life. One being how policing is used in schools and the other is the use of proper education. The primary goal of punishment as being useful was that it enables the “removal of disruptive students from schools and uses incapacitation and deterrence to reduce misbehavior and improve school safety (Hirschfield and Celinska 2011; Mears et al. 2018).”

Consequently, in doing so it was not done in a manner that favored all students who acted in misbehavior tendencies. What ensued was that it created a large disparity among students who were targeted more frequently than others. When identifying punishment, it is most used in examples that include detentions, suspensions or a combination of both. When detentions decreased suspension, rates rose and “racially targeted black people or minorities by being three times more likely to be suspended or expelled then white students (Nelson 2015). Impacts that caused students to fail a grade or drop out altogether. The discipline was not being led by school administration efforts and instead are in the hands of law enforcement who do not have adequate training to deal with these issues. Enforcing punishment that usually is much harsher the second time around then the first and if the same people are being targeted those are the same people who end up arrested. This ends up creating more unnecessary work for both parties involved because it feeds to incarceration rates and also discourages student evolvement.

When it came to individuals that suffered with disabilities, they were also disproportionality represented in the pipeline. About “8.6 percent were identified as having some sort of disability that affected their ability to learn and these students made up 32 percent of youth in detention centers (Elias 2013).” The racial differences are apparent because removing them from an environment that is supposed to stimulate them such as when in school increases the chances that they drop out because they never establish some sort of foundation that encourages learning. Instead not only do these individuals battle their disability but they also become more vulnerable to the criminal justice system because there is no encouragement for them to want to learn.

Pre-Existing Policy and Procedures

The intended effect of those increased incarceration rates comes at the policy that was put in place to coexist with it. It involves the brief history of the use of zero tolerance policies and the impact that they have. Zero Tolerance is defined as “disciplinary policies that compel fixed punishments for specific offenses (Jackson 2019).” The problem with policies like this is that they create a strong avenue for people to be targeted for minor offenses. Instead of creating appropriate measures to discipline young people based on their behavior it instead creates a way to use that behavior as a means to act out of line. Once this is done it can be used as a means to suspend or in extreme cases expel students on the premise of having behavioral issues. Instead of seeking other methods such as counseling you discourage the method of acting out by creating an environment where others do not act in that fashion. It could negatively impact those people because they could less likely seek help when they themselves are going through something similar. It effectively internally shuts people in.

Law enforcement made an “estimated 2.2 million arrests of persons under the age of 18 in 2003 (Sydney 2005).” According to the Violent Crime Index it reported “arrests for violence for juveniles in 2003 was the lowest it had seen since 1987 (Snyder 2005).” This suggests that the number decreased because of the implementation of zero tolerance policies. Instead of addressing issues that would benefit the youth you instead arrest them for it and get rid of the issue altogether disregarding the significant benefits of helping them. Due to this policy in particular you can define the relationship in the school to prison pipeline by specifically discussing more significant incarceration rates. In California “African American males account for 28.5 percent of the states male prison population despite black men making up only 6.6 percent of the states adult males (Skinner 2019).” It is alarming because the it also states that “students who are suspended for at least 10 days are less likely to graduate and more likely to be arrested in their mid 20s (Skinner 2019).” Its significance comes from how direct the relationship seems to be. Arguing that “over criminalization translates to experiences in school where African American males are signaled out for punishment when nothing has occurred (Commentaries 2019).”

This suggests that once zero tolerance policies are not in place anymore anything else can be used as a way to signal out an individual. For example, “willful defiance is a category under suspensions where a large percentage of students that fall under this are black (Skinner 2019).” This defiance is usually for something minor such as refusing to take off a certain accessory, refusing to remove a hat or disrupting class with lashing out behavior. Although removing a individual from the setting can benefit the class as whole it often does the opposite for the individual excluded and isolates them instead. Instead of practicing this procedure instead some type of positive reinforcement should be used to improve behavior by explaining the expectations of students first.

Suspension and Affects to Adulthood

When it comes to suspensions there is an extensive association with the juvenile justice system. It involves the life course expectancy of a student and how it affects their life moving forward. The direct relationship that is involved specifies that at least “youth who experience at least one suspension report lower school commitment than those who did not receive a suspension (Raffaele Mendez 2003).” When having a history associated with suspensions, they also suffer the same fate in not committing to school success. This affects the peers that adolescences associate with and further adds to riskier activities that land them in compromising positions. If behavior is key in this then you would develop socially different. Antisocial tendencies and more delinquent behavior would suit the environment better by increasing the chance of incarceration based on the decisions you would not normally make. Acting out of the norm becomes key.

It also serves to argue that suspensions lead to incarceration rates and an increase is a likelihood. As an overview aside from suspension the fact that you get suspended leads to life changing events and that effect is what causes young people to increase their chances to being locked up. Specifically, “school discipline can serve as a turning point that negatively affects individuals’ future outcomes (Mowen & Brent 2016).” Due to them being life altering events that connection to seeing this early in life can impact your decisions and increase your chances of being arrested. The opposite is also true where in creating these deterrents you either get discouraged because life becomes more difficult such as in the case if a student’s home situation is not ideal or you give up because nothing changes.

With law enforcement now involved in this aspect the earlier the exposure the harsher the experience. The experience that you are exposed to can tarnish the relationship between law enforcement that is meant to protect you and the negative image that can be created. Early contact with police often “sets students on a path of alienation, suspension, expulsion and arrests (Tobacman 2012).” Since their presence is shown negatively this creates an atmosphere for students to fear officers as oppose to using them as a resource. The goal should be in implementing them as a resource where students feel they are there to protect them than be punished by them. Associations are very important because they create future perceptions and creating healthier relationships can both benefit officers and students.


In order to gain an understanding of the significant issues that plague the school-to-prison pipeline, you have to examine the areas that affect it the most. More important than anything there has to be accountability on how young people are funneled into a system that feeds on their inability to be successful. There must be analyzation on their behaviors and there must be a way to address these issues more directly so that the system does not continue to fail them. It has to be understood that the people that are most affected by this are black students and students with disabilities who are more likely to be harshly punished for minor disciplinary subjective offenses than white students and due to this, other methods for encouraging students to succeed in school should be practiced as opposed to using any form of punishment. Suspension and incarceration rates should also be taken seriously because policy needs to resolve the issues it sets out to change rather than target the individuals it sets out to look for.

Policy Recommendations

There are many methods and policy recommendations that can be used to reduce the school-to-prison pipeline argument. Potentially in creating effective solutions so that the problem can become nonexistent in the near future. One of these suggestions is to have positive intervention and support programs, limited use of law enforcement in schools and restorative justice programs and additional programming (Elias 2013). With these methods you create other alternatives that increase the effectiveness of how we solve these issues. Especially when it comes to education, students especially in their youth can become more discouraged with the many responsibilities they have and having more discouragement can lead to not having education at all. They lose the foundation that other students have that increases their success in academics. Having these programs would encourage disadvantaged youth to think more critically and establishes a system that believes in them.

Another method to disrupting the pipeline is by actively being involved in policy that can benefit students rather than hurt them. The argument being that if students can be targeted based on racial disparities that ultimately leads to their demise then they should also play a part in creating policy that helps as well. Creating as it says, “tangible solutions for implanting change (Goings 2018).” They take a look at a variety of probable solutions like identifying racism, having teachers create viable plans amongst each other and student feedback. It would serve to create something cohesive that can only benefit the students. If everyone is on the same page, then you create an environment that promotes unity among the staff and builds better relationships with the students. This could lead to higher amounts of communication that builds trusts and reenforces discussing problems that are affecting everyone rather than dismissing them to law enforcement.

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Doing away with zero tolerance policies is another huge step and instead of having recreational officers deal with students it should be educators that should fit that spot because they are more equipped in understanding them. Instead of criminalizing students for nonviolent misdemeanors instead create a policy that enables behavior modification to keep kids in school longer. Active involvement in their lives will keep them engaged longer and allow them to pursue longer-orientated goals.


  • Brown, S. J., Mears, D. P., Collier, N. L., Montes, A. N., Pesta, G. B., & Siennick, S. E. (2020). Education versus Punishment? Silo Effects and the School-to-prison Pipeline. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 57(4), 403-443.
  • Chiariello, E., Williamson, L., & Wolfram, W. (2013). The School-to-Prison Pipeline. Retrieved October 05, 2020, from
  • Commentaries, E. (2019, August 13). COMMENTARY: We must disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline. Retrieved October 05, 2020, from
  • Goings, R. B., Alexander, S. N., Davis, J., & Walters, N. M. (fall 2018). Using Double Consciousness as an Analytic Tool to Discuss the Decision Making of Black School Leaders in Disrupting the School-to-Prison Pipeline. Taboo: The Journal of Culture and Education, 17(4), 29-48.
  • Hemez, P., Brent, J. J., & Mowen, T. J. (2019). Exploring the School-to-Prison Pipeline: How School Suspensions Influence Incarceration During Young Adulthood. Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice, 18(3), 235-255.
  • Howard N. Snyder, Juvenile Arrests 2003, OJJDP Juvenile Justice Bulletin, at 5 (2005) (“Juvenile Arrests 2003”) (finding juvenile Violent Crime Index arrest rate in 2003 was lowest since 1980 and 48% below peak year in 1994) (available at
  • Libby Nelson & Dara Lind Published: February 24, 2. (2015). The school to prison pipeline, explained - Justice Policy Institute. Retrieved October 05, 2020, from
  • Novak, A. (2019). An Examination of the Association Between Suspension and Justice System Involvement. CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND BEHAVIOR, 46(8), 1165-1180.
  • Schools, T. (2020, August 25). Stop the School-to-Prison Pipeline. Retrieved October 05, 2020, from
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Rethinking The Correlations Between The School To Prison Pipeline System. (2021, December 16). GradesFixer. Retrieved October 2, 2023, from
“Rethinking The Correlations Between The School To Prison Pipeline System.” GradesFixer, 16 Dec. 2021,
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Rethinking The Correlations Between The School To Prison Pipeline System [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2021 Dec 16 [cited 2023 Oct 2]. Available from:
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