Black Boys in Crisis: Why Care About the School-to-Prison Pipeline?
In this series, appropriately titled “Black Boys in Crisis,” I highlight the problems facing black boys in education today, as well as provide clear steps that will lead us out of the crisis.
If you’re reading this series, you are likely in the socioeconomic elite. You’ve probably completed at least high school, and probably have a degree or two under your belt. Why you might ask, should the school-to-prison pipeline matter to you? Surely taking less-desirable elements out of the community has advantages . . .
Outside of caring about the quality of life for other individuals, which is something that is not really teachable, the school-to-prison pipeline matters in more tangible ways. Though it has just 5 percent of the world’s population, the US has nearly a quarter of its prisoners. And, as we saw, African-American men are unequally represented in that number. The average annual cost per prisoner across the US is $31,286, though the figure is significantly higher in certain states (for example, the cost per prisoner in New York is over $60,000). The total annual cost of incarceration in the US? Thirty-nine billion dollars. Now, those are measurable costs.
What isn’t measurable is the indirect impact those incarcerations have on the economy regarding those prisoners not contributing to the workforce. Sure, we may pay the salary of prison employees or the CEOs of large prison privatization corporations, but we are missing out on the positive impact these prisoners could have on our economy.
This is an American problem. It hurts everyone. If we want more high school graduates, less crime, and a more robust economy, we have to stop punishing black boys with school removals or discipline effects that don’t match the offense.