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Document Type

Article in Response to Controversy

Abstract

This paper describes educational policies and disciplinary practices that constitute a school-to-prison pipeline, specifically in Illinois and Chicago Public Schools. During the 1980s, the so-called war on drugs and harsh sentencing laws ushered the United States into an era of mass incarceration. In the 1990s, zero-tolerance policies were implemented and schools began to be treated as secure facilities, while simultaneously Illinois constructed a dozen new prisons. Since the early 2000s, policy trends began to shift. Some criminal statutes were overturned, several juvenile prisons were closed, and youthful offenders were increasingly re-directed toward rehabilitation services for non-violent offenses. Simultaneously, new pathways to prison were being forged, such as the reterritorialization of school districts under No Child Left Behind (2001) and an alarming trend toward deporting Latinos under the Secure Communities program. This paper describes the connection between prison construction and the criminalization of urban students. Ultimately, prison expansion in Illinois contributed to the injustice of the Chicago School System, creating a school-to-prison (and/or deportation) track. In the end, we look at some policy initiatives that have gone against the grain of incarceration-oriented agendas.

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