Monday, January 16, 2012

Destructive Numbers: 4.42% and 1.03%

The numbers shown on the subject line for this post help make the case that there truly is a school-to-prison pipeline in the United States.

The staff of Truthout produced an article on the subject of schools serving as pipelines to prison.  In the article, the Truthout staff describes how teachable moments, or minor infractions have become major police events in public schools.  

However, not all public schools quickly escalate minor infractions into events that warrant police involvement.  The Truthout staff points out that much of the escalation of teachable moments into police events occurs in schools that serve poor and minority students.

The percentages highlighted on the subject line are annualized growth rates based on my calculations of data provided by Truthout (prison population growth) and the U.S. Census Bureau (general population growth). The first number, 4.42%, represents the annualized growth rate of the prison population in the United States between 1970 and today.  The second number, 1.03%, is the annualized growth rate of the general population of the United States during the same period.  

A prison population growth rate that is over four times the growth rate of the general population screams for an answer to the question: 'Why is the prison population growing so much faster than the general population?'. 

Please note that in a 2003 report presented to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights by the Assistant Director, The Sentencing Project  --  Marc Mauer  --  it was pointed out that the United States locks up it citizens at a rate 5-8 times that of Canada and other industrialized nations of western European. 

"Stop the School-to-Prison Pipeline." Truthout 15 January, 2012: online edition.

Related information:

Mauer, Marc. "Comparative International Rates of Incarceration: An Examination of Causes and Trends: Presented to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights." The Sentencing Project 20 June, 2003: online report (PDF).

The Sentencing Project.

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