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.