Blog Archives

Beyond School-to-Prison Pipeline and Toward an Educational and Penal Realism

Much scholarly attention has been paid to the school-to-prison pipeline and the sanitized discourse of “death by education,” called the achievement gap. Additionally, there exists a longstanding discourse surrounding the alleged crisis of educational failure. This article offers no solutions to the crisis and suggests instead that the system is functioning as it was intended—to disenfranchise many (predominately people of color) for the benefit of some (mostly white), based on economic principals of the free market. We begin by tracing the economic interests of prisons and the prison industrial complex, juxtaposing considerations of what we call the “educational reform industrial complex.” With a baseline in the economic interests of school failure and prison proliferation, we draw on the critical race theory concept of racial realism, to work toward a theory of educational and penal realism. Specifically, we outline seven working tenets of educational and penal realism that provide promise in redirecting the discourse about schools and prisons empowering those interested in critically engaging issues of racism that permeate U.S. orientations to education and justice.

Debt to Society: Asset Poverty and Prisoner Reentry

Every year, millions of people exit American jails and prisons and attempt to reintegrate into society. Ex-offenders face many obstacles during the transition. Scholars contend that securing employment is central to a successful transition. A job that allows an ex-offender to earn an income above the poverty line is especially significant, recent studies have shown. Consequently, many prisoner reentry initiatives are focused on expanding employment opportunities for ex-offenders. However, the almost exclusive emphasis on employment as the measurement of economic well-being is short-sighted because it ignores the importance of financial education and asset ownership. Prisoner reentry programs should include an emphasis on financial education in addition to an emphasis on employment as a means of reducing recidivism rates and improving the economic well-being of the ex-offenders and receiving communities. The paper concludes with a discussion of policy implications.