In a must-read account of the school to prison pipeline's impact on young people (primarily of color) in the United States, journalist Raven Rakia looks at the story of one young protester in Ferguson. Rakia met Frankie at the demonstrations that erupted in the wake of white police officer Darren Wilson's slaying of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in August.
Frankie's life has been scarred by the prison industrial complex, with draconian state punishments meted out against him and his peers as early as middle school. It's a systemic problem, Rakia writes:
The St. Louis Public Schools 2011–2012 Student Code of Conduct Handbook outlines a strict discipline policy: For weapons, drugs, assault, threats on staff, and repeated infractions, the first offense comes with an automatic 10-day out-of-school suspension; the second offense includes long-term suspension or expulsion. Indecent exposure, insubordination, disrespect, fighting, vandalism, and coercion come with automatic suspension for the first offense.
After a marijuana arrest at the age of 21, unable to afford bail, Frankie spent 19 months awaiting trial at a place called the Medium Security Institution, where he was tortured.
The ACLU reported on the conditions at the workhouse in 2009; the report backs up Frankie’s account at MSI. Specifically: “Inmate assaults by COs, inmate assaults on other inmates directed by COs, systematic cover-up of incidents, false reporting, failure to make reports, sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, medical neglect, squalor, overcrowding, extended incarceration, inmates stripped naked and subjected to temperature extremes, negligence resulting in death, intimidation, [and] failure to log and report medical matters.”
Think the protests in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and of course, Ferguson are just about the police killing black people? Think again.
Read Rakia's full report to learn what activists are doing to respond to the plague of death and incarceration. Then read her piece on broken windows policing from earlier this week, "When People Are Property."