Community-Based Organizations and the School-to-Prison Pipeline

Date of Award


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First Advisor

Rebecca Overmyer-Velazquez


Current research focuses on how the punitive policies of the public school system is failing to funnel students through the school system, yet succeeding at pushing children into prisons. “The United States is ranked #21 in educational attainment globally…but #1 in incarceration. We hold 5% of the world’s population but 25% of the world’s prisoners. The Atlantic estimated that in 2013, ‘1 million students will fail to graduate high school, a loss of 5,500 students for every day on the academic calendar.’”(“Education vs. Incarceration”) and the numbers remain the same today according to the Department of Education. Due to the system’s shortcomings, the purpose of my independent research project is to compare what community-based organizations are implementing to assist with ending the school-to-prison pipeline cycle through a grassroots movement of community, family and school support. Due to punitive policies pushing students out of schools and into the juvenile justice system, the public educational system is failing students, families and further future generations. Research suggests a multidimensional disruption through community-based organizations to halt this pipeline. While previous research has analyzed the entry points into the pipeline and the problem as a whole, little research has focused on if the suggestions from research are succeeding in the real world. Students coming from low-income, underserved communities need more outside help than just the public school system can provide, and without assistance students are going through inequitable disciplinary action and special needs placements. Through interviewing 8 representatives and collecting 6 surveys from several community-based organizations, I gained a better perspective of how organizations were working towards the end of the pipeline, as well as how their missions and goals compared to suggestions from research. Mirroring the literature, although there is a severe lack of funding, community-based organizations are working with suggestions from research to dismantle the pipeline, such as developing individual student goals, organizing community activism, supporting students towards gaining a college degree and providing resources to build capital, allowing for better future opportunities beyond prison bars. Future research should focus on providing collaborative engagement through community-based organizations and public services to alleviate the challenges on families living in low-income communities.


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