Academic journal article Social Justice

Building, Staffing, and Insulating: An Architecture of Criminological Complicity in the School-to-Prison Pipeline

Academic journal article Social Justice

Building, Staffing, and Insulating: An Architecture of Criminological Complicity in the School-to-Prison Pipeline

Article excerpt

A man working in a munitions factory explains that he is not killing; he's just trying to get out a product. The same goes for the man who crates bombs in that factory. He's just packaging a product. He's not trying to kill anyone. So it goes until we come to the pilot who flies the plane that drops the bomb. Killing anyone? Certainly not, he's just pushing a button.... [Lastly] there is a Vietnamese peasant, dead, but not killed, you might say. The consequence is there, but born of a process so fragmented as not to register in the consciousness of those involved in it. --Charles Payne, quoted in Smith (2009)

The concept of the school-to-prison pipeline (the "pipeline") has drawn important attention to the linkages between education, police power, and incarceration. Academic scholarship, grassroots and national activism, critical and mainstream journalism, and a wide range of policy work have identified key areas that have produced and continue to sustain the pipeline--a fundamental feature of the prison-industrial complex (the "PIC"). These include the implementation of "zero tolerance" measures for disciplinary infractions on school grounds, the growing presence of police in schools, and the concomitant criminalization and juridification of school discipline (see e.g., Ayers, Dohm, and Ayers 2001; Giroux 2004, 2012; Monahan and Torres 2010). Such measures and policies arose, in part, as a response to the infamous and racialized prediction by criminologists James Q. Wilson and John J. Dilulio, Jr., about the rise of the "youth superpredator," which they envisioned would hit the streets of the United States in the mid-1990s (see Barrett 2013; Chura 2011). The "youth superpredator" never arrived, but the policies substantiating and perpetuating the pipeline remain. Moreover, the direct complicity of two of the most notorious late-twentieth-century right-wing scholars belies the larger epistemic, ideological, and practical ways in which the disciplines of criminology and criminal justice structure the pipeline. (1) Indeed, criminology has offered alibis and bodies for the capitalist state to securitize schools and criminalize youth. It is the purpose of this article, then, to begin to sketch these structural complicities. Specifically, we examine the role of the university criminology/criminal justice department in creating, staffing, and legitimating the pipeline. This article offers a preliminary and provisional conceptual scaffold for understanding the complicity of the criminology/criminal justice discipline and its academic departments. In addition, this article argues that when criminology does call critical attention to the pipeline, its gaze remains decidedly reformist. We contend that scholars must commit to the abolitionist project of dismantling the pipeline and "redistributing" the state resources that sustain it (Fraser 1997, 2000; Meiners 2011). Future articles will flesh out the ideas offered here and we hope our colleagues will take up the project of holding the discipline(s) accountable.

We believe we are uniquely positioned to offer this reflexive analysis of the discipline's (or disciplines') complicity in the carceral continuum. As associate professors in the School of Justice Studies at Eastern Kentucky University (EKU)-- previously, the Department of Criminal Justice and Police Studies--we are housed in a school and larger college (the College of Justice and Safety) that exist in a somewhat bizarre tension. All three authors and many of our colleagues identify as committed leftists, who are critical of the conservative and liberal/reformist initiatives in criminal justice and for years have been involved to varying degrees in a wide range of social movements and political causes. Meanwhile, our livelihoods as teachers depend upon educating students seeking positions in the very systems, with their related practices and knowledge bases, that we actively struggle to upend.

We first review some of the literature demarcating the school-based trends that perpetuate the pipeline. …

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