Stopping the Cradle to Prison Pipeline (by Guest Blogger Jason Fillo)

The numerous socio-economic problems existing in our society often feel overwhelming and insurmountable. Children born into poverty are more likely to become incarcerated early in their life and end up in a cycle of imprisonment and violence that ends up costing the state millions. However, overwhelming evidence proves that “some intervention by a teacher, a counselor, a mentor, a relative, a pastor or some other adult offering encouragement, assistance and guidance can save that child from falling into or staying in the (Cradle to Prison) Pipeline. (Cradle to Prison Report 2007).” The actions of a single individual serving as a role model can change a child’s trajectory entirely.

The patience and understanding needed to provide a beneficial personal relationship with youth cannot be achieved with quick response in the form of criminal prosecution. Offenses ranging from truancy to simple assaults can result in severe punishment those irrevocable damages to a child’s life. The implementation of “Safe School Ordinance” and police in schools create disciplinary catchall that results in arrests and misdemeanors that permanently mars an adolescent’s criminal record.

What Is a School’s Role in Preventing the Cradle to Prison Pipeline?

The majority of these offenses are the result of conflicts that are relatively normal for developing adolescents. These cases usual involve the intervention of a parent in order to provide the necessary discipline and structure to teach an adolescent that such behavior is inappropriate and unacceptable. For children living in poverty or with single parents this is not an option. Responsibility for the adolescent’s behavior and welfare falls upon the schools. In urban schools with increasingly growing populations, where teachers are over-worked and underpaid, teachers cannot provide the necessary attention to help students. Expedient arrests provide a means for schools to shift responsibility on to the juvenile justice systems that become similarly overworked.

The accumulation of these circumstances lead to poor constructed laws like Chapter 11 that turn criminal sentencing into an express lane for colored adolescents living poverty, all because no one had the time or patience to guide these youth through the difficult transitions between adolescences and adulthood.

How Engaging with Youth Can Help

The overwhelming systemic problems leading children into a life of criminal sentencing seem insurmountable in the face of these numerous and complicated problems. However it ultimately comes down to a lack of time available to truly engage with youth and students. Overcrowded classrooms and shorter school sessions overwork teachers, divide their attention amongst to many pupils, and leave them ill equipped to engage students with the time and patience they deserve. More schools and more teachers can dramatically improve the lives of youth in poverty by providing them with opportunities for guidance.

Building schools and hiring teachers is a significant investment, but how much will we save by eliminating convicts that become wards of the state.

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3 thoughts on “Stopping the Cradle to Prison Pipeline (by Guest Blogger Jason Fillo)

  1. This post connects so well with the recent one about volunteering. Even though it might not seem like a big deal, every bit of positive time spent with youth counts for good. If we wait until we have all the time and resources in the world to dive into making a difference in the life of a child, that time will never come! Start where you are!

  2. Jason, When I read your question it occurred to me that America sometimes has a harder time with the big picture. I completely agree that it costs more to house an inmate, in California the average is $47,000 (in 2008 no less, source below) while the Portland public school highest costing school is at $10,058 per child (source below). The problem is that people can’t seem to get over the idea of taking money away from prisons and putting that money into education because of the idea of the immediate problem of criminals. “What would we do about the truants, drug dealers and the like in the mean time?” I don’t really have a good answer for that except just changing things. What if we put some of these future trouble makers in a position of responsibility, with plenty of support. I am imagining a situation where the kids who are showing signs of getting into trouble are given the opportunity to “own” a part of their school. In the same way that kids from single parent families end up being the caregivers of their younger siblings these future trouble makers might find success in that way as well. Back to the solution of more schools and more teachers…Maybe a place to start is a robust after school program? One that involves the teachers and facilitates communication between teachers and after school program adults so that there is real accountability. Boone Sources: http://www.lao.ca.gov/laoapp/laomenus/sections/crim_justice/6_cj_inmatecost.aspx?catid=3 http://www.pps.k12.or.us/schools-c/profiles/enrollment/enroll_out.php?rpt=564

    • Jason, This connects with the research topic I had for class about juvenile delinquents and how socioeconomic status plays a huge role in the judicial system. You pointed out that kids are not getting the attention they deserve in schools, in the homes where both parents are working long hours, where teachers are underpaid and over worked, there’s too many kids in the classroom, etc . . . this greatly affects the child’s overall being over time. Kids are falling behind and many of them are dropping out. Higher dropout rate, lower education, and lower socioeconomic status are risk factors for higher recidivism rates among juvenile delinquents and for antisocial peer behavior. I liked what you said, Jason, about having more schools and more teachers. Smaller classrooms and more one on one attention would greatly benefit these kids. Community resources like after school programs, and places where parents can get help are also beneficial in lowering risk factors for delinquent behavior.

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