I was reading about the “Arkansas Cradle to Prison Pipeline Summit,” which will be held April 30. I’m all for programs to give teenagers structure activities etc., but it was some of the language of the article that irked me. In Neil Oman’s article in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette today, he states that the summit will bring together leaders to study the “problem” which is that one in three black (and hispanic) males born since 2001 are at a high risk of going to prison. “The will examine the underlying causes of the phenomena,” the article states. On Saturday, May 2, conference participants will provide recommendations on “dismantling the cradle to prison pipeline in Arkansas.”
Maybe I’m a bad liberal, or a bad sociology student – but in my view, the reason a particular person goes to prison is not because “the system” failed them. Instead, it’s because they chose to commit a felony and deserve punishment. I’m all for more drug courts, more treatment programs, more alternative sentencing, and a little leniency in non-violent sentencing – but we still need to hold individuals accountable.
I suppose I just have a philosophical problem with the pipeline analogy. A pipeline suggests that these young people are trapped in a one way path from which they cannot escape, which inevitably leads to prison unless someone removes them from the pipe. To me, even as someone who has been involved in the juvenile justice system for years, a more proper analogy would be a jetski to prison. Or, in more rural areas, maybe a four-wheeler to prison. Or, maybe I don’t konw what I’m talking about and I’m just ignorant and callous.