School-to-prison pipeline and the Industrial Prison Complex
As a doctoral candidate, my research focuses on the environmental and systemic causes that impede adolescent social development, subsequent academic achievement. My population of my focus is poor and minority. I have attempted several times to connect with my school district here in Charlotte, NC by contacting respective schools and or Curriculum department to volunteer my time and research to aid in effecting change; I normally receive no response and if a response is received, its – not interested. However, I reflect on my former experience as a CMS teacher and my current experience with adult students (quite a few are my former middle school students) as community college faculty with my local community college, Central Piedmont. Students I interact with are attending the college to complete their high school diploma or earn their General Education Development (GED) diploma. During my interaction, I am able to learn of their challenges with the judicial system and or having been incarcerated. See online article, CMS Violence rises in 2012: Assaults on teachers and other school employees increase steadily, Ann Doss Helms, January 12, 2013.
School-to-prison pipeline is a touted “phenomena” in academia and the media with respect to failing schools, subsequently poor teachers. However, where the conversation fall’s short is the school-to-prison pipeline as a lead into the industrial prison complex; or privatized for-profit incarceration where corporate America contracts prison labor. In the decades since the penning of the 1983 mandated government report on the quality of American education, A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform, public education in America continues nationally as an anathema; harsh, but true regardless of billionaire funding to public education (Gates and Broad Foundations). The primary premise of this report was to focus on the nation’s adolescents (teens), in particular high schools and its relationship to formative learning on one end of the educational spectrum to higher education or vocational learning on the other end.
The report’s section titled – The Risk, “The people of the United States need to know that individuals in our society who do not possess the levels of skill, literacy, and training essential to this new era will be effectively disenfranchised, not simply from the material rewards that accompany competent performance, but also from the chance to participate fully in our national life.” The “new era” infers the coming 21st century with respect to the mentioning of the year 2000 in the report’s section titled – Excellence in Education, “…the adults working today (reference to time of report, 1983) will still make up about 75 percent of the workforce in the year 2000.”
The section titled – Indicators of the Risk attests to the report as being visionary to what is problematic in and with education today and is akin to Orson Wells 1984 concept of Big Brother (current government access to citizen privacy via phone, social media) or Marvin Gaye’s famous discography – What’s Going On (continued societal concerns). Of the 16 bullet risk indicators in the report, all 16 are in fact a “now” reality!
Accepting the risk and risk indicators as presented by the report and those indicators having relevancy today in the onset of the 21st century, we can logically assume that school-to-prison pipeline is relevant with respect to society’s marginalized populations who represent risk indicators such as low literacy skills, lack of critical thinking and social skills, failure to complete secondary learning (middle and high school), no vocational training and or skill. However, the irony of the school-to-prison pipeline concept, which culminates into the industrial prison complex, are the financiers of the industrial prison complex. Surprisingly you will find financial supporters of this actuality among corporate, political, and educational entities.
In an online article, Whose Getting Rich off the Prison-Industrial Complex? author Ray Downs (May 17, 2013) brings attention to the privatized profiteering of our country’s incarcerated. Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and the GEO Group are correctional and detention services outsourcers who are highlighted in the article among others who share the billions dollar pie that is produced by the industrial prison complex whose constituents are representative of the school-to-prison pipeline that is filled overwhelmingly with both the poor and minority. The “others” I referred to are well known political donators to both Republican and Democratic parties (CCA Board of Director Henri Wedell and GEO CEO George Zoley; Jeremy Mindich and Matt Sirovich who are associated with Root Capital, respectively), current Democratic President proposal for increased funding of Bureau of Prison (most prison’s are now private) the Vanguard Group and Fidelity Investments, and surprisingly government employees such as school teachers retirement, investment funds. School teachers and other public employee retirement, investment funds have been identified by states – New York, California, Ohio, Florida, Texas, Arizona, Colorado, Kentucky.
In closing, all US school districts should be cognizant of their role in supporting the school-to-prison pipeline, subsequently industrial prison complex and form collaborations of substance in not only improving academics, but student social development and academic achievement for all; minimizing to eliminating their contribution to the student-prison issue.
Downs, Ray. (May 2013). Whose Getting Rich off the Prison-Industrial Complex? Retrieved June 22, 2013, from http://m.vice.com/read/whos-getting-rich-off-the-prison-industrial-complex
A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform.
Retrieved from http://datacenter.spps.org/uploads/sotw_a_nation_at_risk_1983.pdf
R B Muhammad
June 22, 2013