The California Endowment visited San Bernardino last week for their #SchoolsNotPrisons tour that featured a roundtable discussion, an art exhibit, and a free concert.
Educators, faith based, and community leaders commenced at the Ingram Community Center last Thursday to discuss ways they can prevent students of color into further falling into the school-to-prison pipeline.
“This will be a courageous and heartfelt conversation around the culture of mass incarceration,” said Congregations Organized for Prophetic Engagement Executive Director Reverend Samuel Casey.
Social Justice Consultant Tia Martinez provided statistics that provided a historical overview of rising suspension and incarceration rates in the past four decades.
“Isn’t it interesting that right at the same time that jobs for men with a high school [diploma] or less were disappearing, the opportunities to be touched by the criminal justice system went up,” Martinez said regarding the decline of the job market and the rise of mass incarceration in the 1970s. “All that had a huge effect on the ability of poor women of color to form stable families.”
Martinez explained that the “explosion” in suspension rates is not caused by severe incidents, but by things such as tardiness or willful defiance. One suspension may result in a student being held back a grade and dropping out of school altogether, Martinez explained.
Moreover, Martinez said that about 68 percent of African-American men will be incarcerated by the age of 35. In California, it’s closer to 90 percent. This may be due to students spending less time in school, and more time outside school in neighborhoods riddled with crime and poverty.
The only solution, Martinez believes, is through strong partnerships between teachers, administrators, and students that emphasizes social and emotional help.
“This is a matter of safety, education, and prevention,” she said. “Punishment cannot revitalize and restore this county and this community.”