Good day all!
First let me say, there is absolutely no way for me to post this in just two paragraphs.
This one is hard to address in definitive terms. Although I DO believe that zero tolerance definitely plays a large part in creating the so-called pipeline, I do not believe it is the only factor. I would characterize it as an exponential variable in the minority/disadvantaged prison pipeline.
I think we can all agree that there is no one factor that results in the exceptionally high percentage of minority/disadvantaged incarceration and recidivism rates. But adopting a zero-tolerance school policy in selective districts does nothing more than initiate a potential cycle of incarceration and increase a populations skepticism regarding the “pipeline” without addressing the core problems causing the criminal behavior. A sort of “I told you so” moment that feeds upon itself. Incarceration should be the absolute last resort taken in juvenile justice.
According to the U.S. Census, in 2020, white or white mixed individuals made up roughly 71% of the resident population while minorities and mixed minorities made up 39% (I know they don’t add up to 100%. That is because of the “mixed” designation.) (U.S. Census). Yet, minorities make up roughly 42% of the prison population (Federal Bureau of Prisons). Furthermore, although the total number of cases handled by juvenile court dropped significantly from 2005 to 2019, there were still roughly 700,000 cases. With a roughly 30% recidivism rate over a three-year period (Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention), a comparison to a “pipeline” seems legitimate. Those are the numbers. It is hard to make an argument that everything is fair and just with numbers like these.
I know what some people are going to say; “Well maybe minorities don’t instill proper morals into their children.” or “Maybe if their fathers would stick around for more discipline, there wouldn’t be any problem.” I’ve literally heard both of these excuses at nauseum. Besides both of those views being inherently racist, to answer the question of the pipeline, the core causes are irrelevant. (I will address those in a minute because I am sure you are just enthralled at wanting to hear me talk about it.) The point is the numbers do reveal a higher pipeline flow (staying with the analogy) than in whiter communities, and at a young age.
As stated before, I have heard all of the racist tropes and excuses on why the numbers are justified. I do not agree with them. However, causes are causes and real ones need to be addressed. Convincing a community to change after centuries of mistrust will never work. I will never trust a polar bear not to eat me no matter how cute and cuddly it wishes to present itself. So, it will take time; and lots of it. These issues must be addressed by the police and judicial system to rectify the problems.
Rather than practicing a zero-tolerance policy, I feel that a multi-pronged approach should be adopted in addressing these issues. A system that does what it can to redirect the pipeline from prisons to problem solving. For example, police officers in these districts can host town bar-b-ques, small carnivals, parades, or tutoring to help with their perception as the “bad guys” and change the impression that they are only out there to arrest people. Furthermore, the police can run a “fun spot” where kids can be safe and enjoy themselves without influence from the more negative impactors of society. This might change the perception of police from the enemy, to being respected, allowing children to look up to them and grow up with trust in law enforcement instead of looking up to the dealer on the corner with a roll of $100 bills in his/her pocket.
Or perhaps the courts can adopt a program where rather than just concentrating on behavior modification, have the terms of release be built on a more lasting and beneficial talent such as being required to be literate at a 6th grade level, or perhaps be required to pass a high school math test. Maybe increasing the grade level per each time someone ends up back in the system. This will help give an individual the tools and understanding to help themselves advance in a consistently demanding society as ours.
Perhaps school districts can implement certain rewards and bonuses for those who do well in school. Whatever this reward might be, it has to be better than what they can get on the street to make it a worthwhile project.
I told you. Too much to put in two paragraphs. Your replies are always welcome.
Federal Bureau of Prisons. (2021). Inmate Race. https://www.
Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. (2019). Trends and
Characteristics of Delinquency Cases Handled in Juvenile Court, 2019. https:
Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. (2019). Office of Juvenile
Justice 2019 Recidivism Analysis. https://ojj.la.gov/wp-
Peak, K. J., & Madensen, T. D. (2017). Southern New Hampshire University:
Introduction to Criminal Justice: Practice and Process Interactive eBook (3rd
Edition). SAGE Publications, Inc. (US).https://mbsdirect.vitalsource.com/books/
U.S. Census Bureau. (2021). Race and Ethnicity in the United States: 2010 Census
and 2020 Census.https://www.census.gov/library/visualizations/interactive/