Barbarin, O. (2010). Halting african american boys’ progression from pre-K to prison: What families, schools, and communities can do. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 80(1), 81-88.
Incarceration is a much more common experience for African American males than White males. As a consequence of these high rates, the “school-to-prison” pipeline is often invoked as a metaphor to capture the seemingly inexorable progression of African American boys. African American men figure so prominently in the correctional system that the number of African American 4-year-old males can be used to model the number of people who will be incarcerated 1520 years in the future. The rationale for this approach is that the more African American preschool males there are in the United States, the more prisons that will be needed when those young children become young adults. Of the approximately six hundred thousand 4-year-old African American males growing up in the United States in 2008, prisons are being planned to house 28,134 of them by 2029. These projections are a cynical representation of an unpleasant reality. The models projecting future prison populations are cynical because they are premised on the notion that the problems that contribute to the over-representation of African American males in jail will continue on their current course unchallenged and uninterrupted. These models discount the efforts of Head Start and state-funded early childhood programs, school improvement initiatives, and community-based programming. The models assume these preventive programs will make little headway in altering the developmental trajectories of African American males that propel them toward a life of incarceration. Instead, these well-intentioned efforts will be overtaken by a range of forces that impede boys’ development, place them at risk of school failure, lead to delinquency, and ultimately ensnare them in lifelong involvement in the criminal justice system. Is this process inexorable? Can anything be done to improve the prospects of African American boys? I review some of the trouble spots in the developmental progression of African American boys. As a step toward identifying solutions, I discuss the conditions that give rise to the problems. Then I identify some of the steps that families, schools, and communities are taking to reverse the downward spiral of African American boys. [Copyright American Psychological Association]
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