Karen Bass’s School-to-Prison Pipeline Is a New Name for the Old Prison-to-College Pipeline

Letters to the Editor: Karen Bass’ scholarship problem looks bad. Don’t ignore it.

I am not happy about the way Karen Bass has written her article entitled, “Reframing the School-to-Prison Pipeline,” in the Aug. 24 issue of NYCLU’s The Nation. It’s a brilliant piece, and Karen’s thesis is well-supported by facts. The problem, however, is that it is fundamentally flawed. If you want to know what she believes, you need to read her article, and go away. Even if you read only her introductory paragraph, you will know that she says the following:

School-to-prison pipeline is a new name for the old “prison-to-college pipeline,” which is a common phrase in America today. According to the U.S. Education Department report: “Nearly four in 10 African Americans aged 25–29…were arrested at least once during their school-to-prison pipeline.”

What the educational establishment has been doing for generations is separating youth who are in school from those who are out in this country, and then sending them off into the real world to struggle against all the odds, with some of them ending up in prison for crimes that were never committed because they were victimized by the education system. In fact, they are committing new crimes after being in prison.

In her piece, Karen says this:

While white kids have a higher arrest rate, black students are disproportionately arrested, with a majority of incidents involving gun possession.

The point here is that black students are overrepresented in the federal prison system. But there are two problems with her thesis. One, there is no data to support this. There is no data on how many of the 12 million or so minority students in the United States go to school. If we are going to take her thesis at face value, it means that all 12 million black youth (which is a conservative estimate) are incarcerated in the criminal justice system for crimes committed with guns. No matter how many studies we have that show gun crime is a big problem, they tend to show that it does not get more than 15 percent of the total black violence.

Even if

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