There is an undeniable link between educational inequity and the criminal justice system commonly referred to as “the pipeline”. Kids in today’s American society that suffer from poverty and/or racial disparity are already born at a disadvantage when compared to their wealthier white peers. When public school systems then fail to provide the basic necessities needed during an individual’s critical developmental years in order to have a promising future, due to poor funding, these children suffer further inequity and are often left uneducated, drop out of school, and inevitably become involved in the justice system.
Poor children of color typically suffer from inadequate health care and nutrition, various forms of abuse, and sometimes have horrendous home lives. These kids then grow up lacking positive role-models or lack of activities to do outside of school and during the summer. Students then feel disconnected with school and when they lack support outside of school, such as in their home-lives, they become more likely to drop out. When people are poorly educated and lack resources to ensure a sustainable future they are more likely to commit crimes and become incarcerated. As said in “America’s Cradle to Prison Pipeline”, a report of the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF), “The only thing our rich nation will guarantee every child is a jail or detention cell after s/he gets into trouble [and/or] fails in school”. This is a horrendous truth that severely needs to be addressed and reevaluated.
The CDF reports that the annual cost per child for a full year of high quality education is $13,000 while the annual cost per person in jail is $22,650. It costs about half the amount of money to educate a person rather than incarcerate them yet we continue to see so many schools in poverty stricken areas receiving less than the minimum resources needed to provide a basic education for our youth while we continue to see imprisonment rates rise. The fact of the matter is that people do not get better in prison, preventative steps need to be taken before an individual becomes incarcerated rather than slapping an uneducated individual with a mandatory minimum sentence and letting them slip through the cracks.