Publication Date

April 2012

Advisor(s)

Daniel Long

Major

Sociology

Language

English (United States)

Abstract

In this thesis I use a comparative socio-historical analysis of the systems of incarceration and education in the United States, along with individual interviews with nine formerly incarcerated individuals, to explore the consequences of blurring the boundary between schools and prisons. I detail the entrance of the criminal justice system into urban public schools and discuss how the rise of “zero tolerance” discipline coincided with test-driven education reform to push poor students of color out of schools and into prisons. I argue that schools and prisons have merged into a new structure of social domination that legalizes oppression under the pretense of protecting the “public safety.” I suggest that prison education programs, while fundamentally reactive, may provide a model for radical changes in our public education system at large that could move us from a structure of racist and classist exclusion and intolerance to a new paradigm of social inclusion and acceptance.

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