ACLU Report Highlights Racial Disparities in School-to-Prison Pipeline

American Civil Liberties Union

he ACLU report, titled “The School-to-Prison Pipeline in Black and White,” offers a brief but systematic examination of racial disparities in Rhode Island, and how those interconnected disparities can lead to a lifetime of unequal treatment. The report, presented in a series of twelve charts, comes as the nation celebrates Black History Month, and grapples with recent events that have pushed racial disparity issues back into the forefront.

Data has long shown that black Rhode Islanders are disproportionally suspended from school, stopped and searched by police, arrested, and incarcerated. When this data is compiled, as it is in the report, it becomes clear that the disproportionate singling out, scrutinizing, and punishing of black Rhode Islanders is a persistent and far-reaching problem and one that contributes to the school-to-prison pipeline, a systematic pattern of pushing students, especially minorities, out of the classroom and into the criminal justice system.

The series of charts in the report show how the disparate punishments doled out as early as elementary school lead to more black youth being swept up in the juvenile justice system where they face harsher punishment than their white counterparts. As adults, black Rhode Islanders are disproportionately stopped and searched by police, exacerbating disparities in arrest rates even when black and white individuals commit infractions at roughly the same rate. The end result of these racial disparities is a prison population that is disproportionately black. This racial disparity leaves the black community to bear the brunt of the socioeconomic consequences that follow incarceration, including lack of employment and denial of housing, perpetuating the cycle of unequal treatment...

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