Education Week Examines The Teaching Profession

African-American men like Chrissell Rhone make up just 2 percent of U.S. teachers and, for many of them, school can be a lonely place.





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The Nation: How Could Tamir Rice’s Death Be ‘Reasonable’?

Imaginative legal reasoning deals a real blow.

 In a world of complex and systemic violence, legal reason sometimes follows an imaginative narrative arc.

Take the case of Charles K. Goodridge, a computer programmer in Texas, who sued Hewlett-Packard, his employer of nearly a decade, for racial discrimination. He lost his job as part of a settlement in that case. Already in his late 40s, he was unable to find other regular work and was eventually evicted from his apartment. As Anand Jahi, Goodridge’s cousin and a graduate student at Princeton, wrote in YES! Magazine, “economic devastation turned him into a trespasser.” And so, early on the morning of July 9, 2014, Goodridge was discovered in the fitness center of his former building by Francisco Ruiz, an erstwhile neighbor and off-duty county constable who moonlighted as a security guard for the complex. Ruiz returned to his apartment to retrieve his gun and a set of handcuffs. He then chased Goodridge into the parking lot of the complex, where, according to the Harris County DA, he “became fearful that Goodridge was going to take his gun and kill him with it, so when he gained some distance from Goodridge, Ruiz pulled the gun and shot [him] twice” in the abdomen. A grand jury failed to indict Ruiz for this act…

For the entire piece check out

“Signed…An Educated Brother!”

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The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain

by Langston Hughes
The Nation, June 23, 1926
(From April 2015 150th Anniversary Edition)

One of the most promising of the young Negro poets said to me once, “I want to be a poet—not a Negro poet,” meaning, I believe, “I want to write like a white poet”, meaning subconsciously, “I would like to be a white poet”, meaning behind that, “I would like to be white.”  And I was sorry the young man said that, for no great poet has ever been afraid of being himself.  And I doubted then that, with his desire to run away spiritually from his race, this boy would ever be a great poet.  But this is the mountain standing in the way of any true Negro art in  America—this urge within the race toward whiteness, the desire to pour racial individuality into the mold of American standardization, and to be as little Negro and as much American as possible.  A very high mountain indeed for the would-be racial artist to climb in order to discover himself and his people.

Certainly there is, for the American Negro artist who can escape the restrictions the more advanced among his own group would put upon him, a great field of unused material ready for his art.  Without going outside his race, and even among the better classes with their “white” culture and conscious American manners, but still Negro enough to be different, there is sufficient matter to furnish a black artist with a lifetime of creative work.  And when he chooses to touch on the relations between Negroes and whites in this country with their innumerable overtones and undertones, surely, and especially for literature and the drama, there is an inexhaustible supply of themes at hand.  To these the Negro artist can give his racial individuality, his heritage of rhythm and warmth, and his incongruous humor that so often, as in the Blues, becomes ironic laughter mixed with tears. 

Jazz to me is one of the inherent expressions of Negro life in America: the eternal tom-tom beating in the Negro soul—the tom-tom of revolt against weariness in a white world, a world of subway trains, and work, work, work,; the tom-tom of joy and laughter, and pain swallowed in a smile.  To my mind, it is the duty of the younger Negro artist, if he accepts any duties at all from outsiders, to change through the force of his art that old whispering “I want to be white,” hidden in the aspirations of his people, to “Why should I want to be white?  I am a Negro—and beautiful!”

So I am ashamed for the black poet who says, “I want to be a poet, not a Negro poet,” as though his own racial world were not as interesting as any other world.  I am ashamed, too, for the colored artist who runs from the painting of Negro faces to the painting of sunsets after the manner of the academicians because he fears the strange un-whiteness of his own features.  An artist must be free to choose what he does, certainly, but he must also never be afraid to do what he might choose.

Let the blare of Negro jazz bands and the bellowing voice of Bessie Smith singing blues penetrate the closed ears of the colored near-intellectuals until they listen and perhaps understand.  We younger Negro artists who create now intend to express our individual dark-skinned selves without fear or shame.  If white people are pleased we are glad.  If they are not, it doesn’t matter.  We know we are beautiful.  And ugly too.  The tom-tom cries and the tom-tom laughs.   If colored people are pleased we are glad.  If they are not, their displeasure doesn’t matter either.  We build our temples for tomorrow, strong as we know how, and we stand on top of the mountain, free within ourselves.

“Signed…An Educated Brother!”

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For Ending Racial Bias, Diversity Training Alone Isn’t Effective by Samina Hadi-Tabassum

This opinion piece appeared in the July 2nd online edition of Education Week

In relation to the recent spate of police shootings, there are many parallels that can be made between the police force and the teaching force. Each profession is composed of mostly white middle class individuals who are finding themselves working in unexpected settings, often lacking the skills to address the needs of majority minority communities. In order to better prepare the new recruits for diverse settings, both schools of education and police departments are implementing anti-bias trainings.

We have enough research to support the finding that both teachers and police officers come into their work settings with implicit biases that can have a deleterious effect on students’ academic achievement, as well as a community’s well-being. Within a few seconds, teachers immediately begin to sort and classify students when they enter the classroom on the first day. The way a student speaks and the way she or he dresses are often two nodal points in which teachers implicitly judge students. Our ability to quickly sort and classify is a primordial mechanism, which dates back to our ancient brains that needed to determine immediately who was friend and who was foe. Yet, this binary mode of flight versus fight does not function well in a highly mobile and fluid landscape in which diversity is increasing at an exponential rate and our brains have not caught up yet with the rapid changes.

I work with teaching candidates who grow up in bubble worlds in which everyone is mostly white and mostly middle class. Their first encounter with a person of color is often with the students in their field-experience classroom. Their stellar suburban education never afforded them the social capital and emotional intelligence needed to work well with people who are not like them.Yet, when teachers walk into the classroom starting on the first day, their biases and assumptions about the students, their parents and their intelligence levels surface right away. These biases and assumptions can falsely drive instruction for the first weeks of teaching until student achievement data and other demographic information surfaces months later. It takes great effort on my part to undo these implicit biases.

However, the recent police shootings and subsequent anti-bias training, as noted by reports from National Public Radio as well as The New York Times, questions the effectiveness of such training. Can I train my teachers to become fair and impartial? Does addressing race, ethnicity, religion, and gender differences in my courses necessarily lead to less bias in my teaching candidates? Will my students empathize with the minority students in their future/current classrooms or will their stereotypes be reinforced through my diversity teachings?

There is a growing body of research that cites the need for better teaching as a solution to prevent implicit biases and assumptions from negatively affecting underrepresented minority students. Instead of more anti-bias training, police academies are also providing more specialized skill-based training, such as how to effectively identify what the assailant is holding, as a way to prevent police shootings. By learning to teach more effectively, the teacher can use specific strategies and techniques that allow all students to achieve, such as more student-centered methods in order to avoid the biases and assumptions from taking hold. It is important for the teacher to keep anti-bias training in the background of his or her mind, but it is imperative that they keep effective methods of teaching in the foreground of their mind. The methods should drive her or his teaching rather than their implicit biases and assumptions.

Samina Hadi-Tabassum is an associate professor of education at Dominican University, in River Forest, Ill., where she directs the English-as-a-second-language/bilingual program and works with cohorts of first-year teachers. She is writing a book addressing race relations in public schools. Follow her on Twitter @SaminaHadiTabas.

“Signed…An Educated Brother!”

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A Righteous Path

“An Evening of Outreach & Understanding”

Friday, June 19th
New Rochelle United Methodist Church
1200 North Avenue
New Rochelle, NY 10804


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RollingStone Weighs In On Police Violence

It wasn’t just the killing of Freddie Gray. Inside the complex legal infrastructure that encourages — and covers up — police violence


When Baltimore exploded in protests a few weeks ago following the unexplained paddy-wagon death of a young African-American man named Freddie Gray, America responded the way it usually does in a race crisis: It changed the subject.

Instead of using the incident to talk about a campaign of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of illegal searches and arrests across decades of discriminatory policing policies, the debate revolved around whether or not the teenagers who set fire to two West Baltimore CVS stores after Gray’s death were “thugs,” or merely wrongheaded criminals.

From Eric Garner to Michael Brown to Akai Gurley to Tamir Rice to Walter Scott and now Freddie Gray, there have now been so many police killings of African-American men and boys in the past calendar year or so that it’s been easy for both the media and the political mainstream to sell us on the idea that the killings are the whole story.

Fix that little in-custody death problem, we’re told, perhaps with the aid of “better training” or body cameras (which Baltimore has already promised to install by the end of the year), and we can comfortably go back to ignoring poverty, race, abuse, all that depressing inner-city stuff. But body cameras won’t fix it. You can’t put body cameras on a system.

As a visit to post-uprising Baltimore confirms, high-profile police murders are only part of the problem. An equally large issue is the obscene quantity of smaller daily outrages and abuses that regularly go unpunished by a complex network of local criminal-justice bureaucracies, many of which are designed to cover up bad police work and keep all our worst behaviors hidden, even from ourselves.

Go to any predominantly minority neighborhood in any major American city and you’ll hear the same stories: decades of being sworn at, thrown against walls, kicked, searched without cause, stripped naked on busy city streets, threatened with visits from child protective services, chased by dogs, and arrested and jailed not merely on false pretenses, but for reasons that often don’t even rise to the level of being stupid.

“I can guarantee if you look up here and look down there, it might be five people who ain’t been fucked over by the police,” says Baltimore resident Shaun Young, waving a hand at a crowd of maybe a hundred people gathered at Penn and North, site of the protests. “It’s small shit — they get taken advantage of.”

A. Dwight Pettit, a legendary African-American civil rights lawyer in Baltimore, says he and others in the city’s legal community stopped pursuing what he calls “simple civil rights violations” years ago: the verbal-abuse cases, the humiliating cavity searches conducted in public, the non-lethal beatings. “We were dumping them on each other,” he says. “But we had to stop. There were just too many.”

Most Americans have never experienced this kind of policing. They haven’t had to stare down the barrel of a service revolver drawn for no reason at a routine stop. They haven’t had their wife and kids put on an ice-cold sidewalk curb while cops ran their license plate. They haven’t ever been told to get the fuck back in their car right now, been accused of having too prominent a “bulge,” had their dog shot and their kids handcuffed near its body during a wrong-door raid, watched their seven-year-old dragged to jail for sitting on a dirt bike, or dealt with any of a thousand other positively crazy things nonwhite America has come to expect from an interaction with law enforcement. “It’s everywhere,” says Christen Brown, who as a 24-year-old city parks employee was allegedly roughed up and arrested just for filming police in a parking lot. “You can be somewhere minding your business and they will find their best way to fuck with you, point blank. It’s blatant disrespect.”

This system, now standard in almost all of urban America, is Mayberry on one side and trending Moscow or 1980s South Africa on the other. Why? Because America loves to lie to itself about race. It’s able to do so for many reasons, including the little-discussed fact that most white people have literally no social interactions with black people, so they don’t hear about this every day.

Police brutality is tough to talk about because white and black America see the issue so differently, with white Americans still overwhelmingly supportive and trustful of law enforcement. But the current controversy is as much about how modern law-enforcement practices have ruined the job of policing as it is about racism. There are plenty of good cops out there, but the way policing works in cities like Baltimore, the bad ones can thrive. And disasters aren’t just more likely, they’re inevitable.

Baltimore is like a lot of American cities. It has a small, spiffy-looking downtown with a couple of nice ballparks and some Zagat-listed restaurants for the tourists to visit. But outside those few blocks, much of it is a dead zone. Whole sections of town are packed with crumbling, trash-infested row houses, and this pothole-strewn mess is where people are somehow expected to live. The drug trade has historically dominated Baltimore’s ghettos. But the city is so screwed these days, jokes one African-American resident, that “even the drug game is dead.”

It’s against the backdrop of abandoned cityscapes like this that the current policing controversy rages. The king of modern enforcement strategies, Broken Windows, isn’t designed to promote economic growth in these neighborhoods. It’s designed to prevent the “bad” neighborhoods from spilling into the “good” ones.

Broken Windows policing, which gained renown in the Nineties thanks to politicians like former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, is the mutant offspring of our already infamous race history, a set of high-tech tricks to disguise old-school discriminatory policing as cheery-sounding, yuppie-approved, Malcolm Gladwell-endorsed pop sociology. The ideas grew out of a theory advanced in 1982 by a pair of academics, James Q. Wilson of Harvard and George Kelling of Rutgers. “If a window in a building is broken and is left unrepaired, all the rest of the windows will soon be broken,” the pair wrote in The Atlantic, arguing in “Broken Windows” that disorder and crime were “inextricably linked” and that fixing the former would impact the latter.

The practical application of these ideas was simple. In the interest of public order, cops would stop people in troubled neighborhoods for any infraction, no matter how minor — a broken taillight, a hopped turnstile, an open beer — in hopes of deterring more-serious crimes.

Broken Windows was introduced in New York in 1990, when a Bostonian named Bill Bratton was named the city’s Transit Police chief. At the time, New York was plagued by street crime, with a murder rate north of 2,000 killings a year. Any idea that seemed like it had half a chance of working seemed like a good idea.

After Giuliani made Bratton his police commissioner in 1994, the two men took the Broken Windows approach to the next level. New terms entered the lexicon — “zero tolerance,” “stop-and-frisk,” “community policing” (an Orwellian euphemism every bit as preposterous as the Clear Skies and Healthy Forests initiatives dreamed up by the Bush administration). These new, more interventionist strategies relied on endless streams of adversarial interactions between police and the subject population, stopping and sometimes searching people by the thousands.

Soon, the crime rate began to decline sharply, and the media rushed to laud Giuliani and Bratton for slaying the criminal dragon. Time put Bratton on its cover, dressed in a trench coat and standing at night on a New York street conspicuously empty of anything but a squad car. The headline: “Finally, We’re Winning the War Against Crime.” Of course, there would later be a tremendous controversy over whether these new policing strategies had anything to do with the drop in New York’s crime rate. Other cities that didn’t use these programs saw similar declines, in a phenomenon that criminologists are still at a loss to explain.

Bratton instituted a statistics-based system called CompStat, which required precinct captains to give regular reports to their superiors about numbers of arrests, stops and searches. As retired police Capt. Ernie Naspretto explained in a piece for the Daily News years later, it wasn’t enough to merely say you were out there on the street, executing mass numbers of field interrogations. “If it ain’t on paper, it ain’t,” he wrote. “Stop-and-frisk became a means for us to show we were still fighting crime.”

For the officer on the ground, stop-and-frisk meant a commitment to a new, highly interventionist kind of policing, and one that was inherently discriminatory. Sgt. Anthony Miranda is a retired New York police officer and president of the National Latino Officers Association. He’s a tall, powerfully built man who has the air of someone whose sheer size makes telling the blunt truth easier. He recalls a story from the early Eighties about how New York developed its two-faced zero-tolerance enforcement policy, one that would be imitated all over the country.

He walked a beat in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn. During the High Holidays, he explains, many residents in the area refrained from using electricity or doing certain tasks, and police traditionally helped. But he was with a group of younger cops who didn’t want to just stand around. “So we used to go out there, and if you were parked illegally, bang, you summonsed them,” Miranda says. “We were doing what cops were used to doing — giving activity,” he adds, referring to tickets and arrests.

After doing that a few times, all of the young cops got called in. “They lined everybody up on the street, had commanding officers come down, and they said, ‘You’re not out here to give summonses. You’re not out here to make arrests. You’re out here for armed presence.’ ”

Miranda remembered that story later on when Broken Windows started under Giuliani. Like a lot of police officers, Miranda liked the idea at first. Broken Windows, he says, seemed like a good tool to bring a crisis situation under control. But after a while, the emergency abated, crime went down, and what he was left staring at as a police officer was a discrepancy. In affluent neighborhoods, that is, generally, white neighborhoods, police tended to show up only when they had no choice. “Domestic violence, a guy firing a weapon, a car accident,” he says. “Cases where, if a cop ends up responding, he has to take some action.” But, Miranda says, you weren’t supposed to go looking for reasons to arrest people in those neighborhoods.

But in poorer neighborhoods, cops weren’t waiting for people to call 911 — they were, in police parlance, “self-initiating” the action. “If it’s Bed-Stuy or some poor neighborhood in the middle of a ghetto,” he says, “it could be a Catholic church and they’ll find the priest and bang the shit out of him with summonses.”

The sociological idea behind Broken Windows was pitched as something much more benign, of course. It was supposed to be the government version of tough love. And it was an easy sell politically, particularly to white and upper-class New York. From the point of view of the uptown crowd, it was a cheaper solution to urban decay than creating jobs. It also had the advantage of blaming the subject population for the rot and destruction of crime.

The legal precedent for these policies dates back to a 1968 Supreme Court case called Terry v. Ohio, in which the high court ruled that police may approach, search and demand to see the identification of any person the officer has an “articulable” suspicion has committed, or is about to commit, a crime. Although the court ruled that this “suspicion” needed to be more than a mere policeman’s hunch and must be based on “articulable facts,” the reality is that a) Sherlock Holmes, Thurgood Marshall and Miss Cleo put together couldn’t tell you what qualifies as the “articulable” suspicion of a beat cop, and b) this decades-old precedent case essentially transferred the power of the state into the minds of street-level patrol officers.

Giuliani and Bratton, and later Bratton’s successor, Howard Safir, made themselves famous crime fighters by vastly increasing the scope and number of such “Terry stops.” Sweep up everyone, see what shakes out.

Community policing sounds harmless, like they were just sending patrolmen out to chat with old ladies on stoops about which neighborhood trees were most dangerous for cats. But in practice, it meant sending cops by the thousands into tough neighborhoods to, as Miranda says, “bang the shit” out of locals. Police braced people on sidewalks and in alleyways, asked for IDs, executed pat-downs, turned pockets inside out and emptied pad after pad of summonses.

A City University of New York professor eloquently described the mission creep of Broken Windows last year. “If the problem is a broken window, they should fix the window,” professor Steve Zeidman told Reuters. “But somehow we don’t fix the window, we just arrest people who start hanging out by the broken window.”

At the policy’s height, in 2011, New York cops were stopping more than 680,000 people a year (around 89 percent of whom were nonwhite, in a city whose population is more than half white) and issuing upward of half a million summonses a year. Though a landmark 2013 ruling by federal judge Shira Scheindlin would ostensibly outlaw the stop-and-frisk policies, many other cities — among them Philadelphia, Seattle, New Orleans and Boston — would create their own aggressive policing policies. “What New York developed,” says Miranda, “was the blueprint other states followed.” Smaller towns also adopted it, some with especial verve. A Miami exurb called Miami Gardens executed more than 99,000 stops in a five-year period, and reportedly stopped the same black man 258 times — including dozens of inexplicable arrests for trespassing at the convenience store where he worked.

Bratton moved to Los Angeles in 2002 and promptly launched a similar program there. By 2008, L.A. was making more than 870,000 stops a year, a rate significantly higher than was ever seen in New York. Chicago, too, was recently found to still be stopping people at a rate four times higher than New York at its peak.

Though academics were already claiming that stop-and-frisk tactics didn’t work, those critiques didn’t yet enjoy the consensus they do now. In fact, stop-and-frisk wasn’t just still hot at the time, it was intellectual chic. In 2000, America’s leading fast-food philosopher, Malcolm Gladwell, helped launch his career on the back of a half-baked analysis of Broken Windows in a book called The Tipping Point.

So when O’Malley started his version of Broken Windows, he had a mandate, and it’s not surprising that Baltimore’s program was wildly aggressive. At its peak, in 2005, an incredible 108,000 of the city’s 600,000 residents were arrested. Later on, critics like The Wire creator David Simon, would describe O’Malley’s police department as obsessed by statistics, determined to produce crime-reduction rates that were “unsustainable without manipulation.” The emphasis on stats, Simon said, “destroyed police work,” forcing cops into the roles not of investigators and protectors, but of strong-armers bent on producing numbers above all else. Zero tolerance also forced cops to behave in ways that were virtually guaranteed to piss people off on a mass scale.

The policy was ostensibly dialed back in court thanks to a joint NAACP and ACLU lawsuit filed in 2006. But Baltimore remains a place where police stop pedestrians, ask them for ID and sometimes take them for rides if they give the wrong answers. “First thing they say is, ‘Gimme your ID,’ ” says Malik Ansar, 44, who’s standing on the corner of Penn and North in the days after Freddie Gray’s death. “They look and say, ‘Oh, you live in ZIP code 21227. What you doing way over here?’ ”

Ansar points at a run-down town house behind him. “You can tell him you were born in this house right here. They don’t care. They say, ‘You live here now?’ And you say, ‘No, man, I moved outta here 17 years ago.’ And they say, ‘What the fuck you doing here now?’ ”

The way residents like Ansar describe it, if you’re not at the address listed on a photo ID, you go into the paddy wagon. But if you run, it’s worse. “Then, it’s an ass-whipping,” says a nearby bystander. “Believe me, Freddie [Gray] knew he was gonna get an ass-whipping if he got caught. . . . Everybody knows that. It may not be a real bad one, but you gonna get one.”

So most people go along, which at minimum is a huge waste of time. Ansar’s friend, who goes by the name of Big T, says if you get picked up at lunchtime, you’re lucky if you make it to central booking by five. You spend the whole freaking day in that hot, cramped van.

And once you get to booking? “You’re spending the night,” says Big T. “It’s just them saying, ‘We’re gonna get you.’ ”

Many of these “cases” of loitering, or disorderly conduct, or whatever, never amount to anything, and if they do, get dropped as soon as anyone with half a brain and a law degree sees the charging papers. But the endless regimen of street interrogations and “long rides” serves its own moronic purpose, being a clumsy, bluntly illegal method of intimidating residents and searching whole neighborhoods without probable cause.

“They hoping that a warrant pop,” says Ansar of the trips to central booking. “And then they hoping that your ass don’t be coming around here no more. Because the police be trying to build a reputation.”

People are focused on how violative these policies are to the population, but the flip side is that this high-volume, low-yield approach to enforcement is a terrible policy for good cops, too. “Right now, it’s like they’re saying, ‘We have a robbery problem, and we fixed it,’ ” says Miranda. “Actually, no, you didn’t fix it, you just arrested everybody. It’s lazy policing.”

As fig leaves go, articulable suspicion is a particularly skimpy one, as multiple studies of these tactics have shown. In Newark, for instance, a Department of Justice investigation found that more than 60 percent of police stops failed to articulate reasonable suspicion. An ACLU study of Chicago’s stop-and-frisk program found officers routinely cited bogus reasons like a prior arrest or an observable “bulge” as their articulable suspicion.

You can do the math yourself. If cities like Chicago and Los Angeles and New York were, or are, routinely stopping and questioning more than half a million people a year, and if as many as half of those stops lack real cause, then at minimum we’re talking millions of potentially illegal incidents.

Decades into this campaign of organized harassment, the worst thing that happened to the cops who stopped thousands upon thousands of people with no good reason was that they started to become the subject of academic studies. In 2013, New York University examined the data relating to CompStat and the Broken Windows arrests and concluded that they had little to no impact on the crime rate.

Despite such conclusions and lawsuit rulings that declared these programs discriminatory, nobody was ever punished. Giuliani didn’t show up in Bed-Stuy with a fruit basket. Malcolm Gladwell didn’t have to give back his Tipping Point royalties. And nobody had to apologize.

Lack of consequence rarely goes unnoticed in big bureaucracies. So it’s hardly surprising that police started crossing a new line: inventing reasons not just for stops and searches but for arrests.

Twenty-year-old Jaleel Fields lives in an East New York project not far from the one where Akai Gurley — if you’re keeping score, he was the young black man killed after Michael Brown and before Walter Scott — was shot in a stairwell by a rookie officer last fall. Fields’ case is typical in most ways, which is why you didn’t hear about it.

A thin young man with a quick sense of humor, Fields was heading to the grocery store in February 2013 and made the mistake of getting into an elevator with two police officers. A civil complaint he later filed describes how the problem started when he laughed as the police argued with another young man in the elevator.

Police claimed that Fields blocked the elevator door, then made things worse after he left the elevator by elbowing a police officer, hiding his hands and struggling. Fields’ story is different. “He just came, pushed me straight back to the corner,” he says. “He’s like, ‘Oh, you think you could bump a cop and get away with it?’ I looked at him like, ‘What? I ain’t touch no cop. I ain’t touch no cop. What are you talking about?’ ”

Fields got charged for resisting arrest, attempted assault in the third degree, disorderly conduct, and harassment in the second degree. He had to spend a day in jail. No one outside his family and friends would ever know a thing about this case, except for the atypical part of the narrative, which was that the action in the elevator was captured on video. (The NYPD says it can’t comment on a sealed case.) The video clearly shows that Jaleel Fields not only didn’t block the elevator door, he expressly stepped aside to let people on and off and stood in a corner for most of the ride. Fields’ real crime seems to have been laughing near a couple of cops.

If you live in the other America where this stuff doesn’t go on, and you didn’t know the context of these “self-initiated contacts,” you might look at Jaleel Fields, and his arrest for resisting, and think he was a criminal. You might especially think that if you didn’t see the video. “Most people think that there’s a high burden for getting arrested, because maybe for them, there is,” says Martha Grieco, Fields’ attorney. “But they don’t pick up kids in these neighborhoods because they do anything. They pick them up as a form of social control. . . . We want your fingerprints in the system. We want your iris scans in the system. We want to know your tattoos.”

You can walk into any public defender’s office in the country and find stacks of arrest reports in which police say they saw something that common sense tells you almost certainly couldn’t be. There is even a name for it: “test-a-lying.” One lawyer tells a story of police smelling weed in a closed Ziploc bag from some 150 feet away. Another is representing the estate of a man, ultimately shot by police, who authorities said marched into a state police barracks reeking of marijuana (“Because everybody smokes a huge joint before they go to the police station,” the attorney says, noting that no marijuana was found in the victim’s system at autopsy). A third has a handful of clients who all apparently made furtive motions in the direction of an officer’s gun. “It must be epidemic in New York, these furtive movements for police guns,” he says.

Against the Fieldses of the world, the lies of police officers generally work as intended: as effective pretexts to get people searched or fingerprinted and create real criminal records. But the lies almost never cut the other way. In city after city, the laws are set up to make police misconduct of any kind, from a lie in an arrest report all the way up to outright brutality, disappear down a variety of bureaucratic rabbit holes.

Say you live in a large American city — Baltimore, for example. Police stop and search you, something goes wrong and you end up getting your ass kicked. You don’t die, and more to the point, nobody films you not dying, which means CNN doesn’t show up the next day.

You’re hauled off to jail. Sometime between a few hours and a few days later, you learn the charges against you. It’s usually a hell of a list, which is part of the game. On what Ansar describes as “that motherfucking paper they slide under the door,” you might find yourself charged with resisting arrest, assault against a police officer, criminal possession of marijuana, criminal possession of a weapon, reckless endangerment and whatever else the on-scene officers can think of.

The case is weak, however, so a few days or weeks later a prosecutor tells you charges will be dropped. In being processed, you sign a paper. It reads:

I, (name), hereby release and forever discharge (complainant) and (law enforcement agency), all its officers, agents and employees, and any and all other persons from any and all claims which I may have for wrongful conduct by reason of my arrest, detention, or confinement on or about (date).

This General Waiver and Release is conditioned upon the expungement of the record of my arrest. . . .

You sign, and your “criminal record” disappears, which is great for you. But so does the incident, which is expunged from the public record. And, except in very rare cases, the same police go right back out on the street. The only results of the entire episode are things that can hurt you: Your prints might now be in the system, you might attract future attention by the same police, and your employer might be upset by the whole situation.

This expungement trick is the way it works in Baltimore. To make the charges go away, victims often end up overtly forfeiting a right to sue (by signing a paper to that effect) or effectively doing so by pleading guilty to lesser offenses (undercutting, say, any federal civil rights case they might later want to bring).

If a Baltimore case is bad enough to warrant a financial settlement, the gory details usually end up disappeared behind a nondisclosure agreement. A. Dwight Pettit and Baltimore trial lawyer Larry Greenberg can’t tell me about most of their worst cases, because they’re sealed. In other words, if the victim takes the city’s money after a beating or a false arrest, then the city typically gets to dispose of the incident without apologizing or even publicly acknowledging it.

It’s the street-level equivalent of the “neither admit nor deny” settlements that Wall Street offenders made infamous after 2008. A bad thing happens, but somehow nobody is guilty of anything — money just changes hands.

But here’s the next catch: It’s not much money. There’s a liability cap in place in the state of Maryland, limiting victims to $200,000 per person, $500,000 per incident (though there are plans to roughly double those amounts). Other states, like Pennsylvania, Illinois and Colorado, have similar caps.

On the streets of Baltimore last week, African-American residents were furiously repeating the statistic about the city paying out more than $6 million in abuse settlements since 2011. But that number is actually quite small. In New York, which does not have a cap, abuse victims have received more than $420 million since 2009.

But even getting to a settlement is contingent upon the victim acting quickly. In the city of Baltimore, a victim has to file notice of a suit within six months. There are plans to expand that limit to a year, but it’s still a tight window. If you don’t hire a lawyer right away, you’re probably not going to make the deadline.

The game is set up so the only real end for the victim of police abuse to pursue is a check from the government. This brings us to the most shocking and probably most under-reported aspect of the police-abuse story: In most cities it’s close to impossible to get a police officer removed for lies, abuse or other forms of misconduct.

A grotesque example is Chicago, where statistics about police abuse leaked out via a civil lawsuit called Bond v. Utreras. In that case, it was revealed that in a two-year period between 2002 and 2004, Chicago police received 10,149 complaints of misconduct, which resulted in only 19 total acts of meaningful discipline (defined as a suspension of seven days or more).

A similar statistical pattern emerged in New York, where after last year’s Eric Garner case, the NYPD’s Inspector General’s office and its Civilian Complaint Review Board both conducted evaluations of chokehold incidents. The upshot of the reports is that between 2009 and the first half of 2014, New Yorkers complained of 1,048 incidents involving chokeholds, which had been banned by the NYPD for more than a decade. Of those complaints, the CCRB “substantiated” only 10. And none of those offending officers saw significant repercussions.

The reason for this is that unless a police officer is criminally indicted after an abuse case, which very rarely happens, the discipline procedure at big-city police departments is generally handled in-house. In New York, a civilian complaint usually has to be substantiated by a review panel, which will either suggest punishment itself or refer the case to a pseudo-court at the police department. There, judges — who are employed by the department — may recommend discipline. But many of these recommendations can be overturned by the police commissioner.

What this means for the people on the streets of urban neighborhoods is simple: For all the hundreds of millions of dollars paid out by cities to abuse victims, very little is actually done to discipline rogue police officers. Cops caught lying in court by judges are not fired. They’re back in court giving evidence the next day. “The downside [to lying] for the police is just that the evidence gets tossed,” says Pettit, who notes that the problem is especially pronounced in civil courts. “There’s no personal accountability. There’s no reason not to lie again.”

This problem — of police almost never facing consequences — was the obvious subtext of the Baltimore revolts. It’s the reason the one thing that calmed the city down was the curiously rapid decision by the new state’s attorney, Marilyn Mosby, to file sweeping charges, including manslaughter and murder, against the six police, three white and three black, involved with Gray’s arrest.

Pettit notes that Mosby’s decision was a rarity in that three of the officers were also charged with false imprisonment. She essentially described the entire arrest as improper and illegal, even going so far as to assert publicly that the pocket knife Gray was carrying was legal. The legal fight to come will therefore put the entire rationale behind Broken Windows on trial, in the sense that prosecutors will argue — if the case actually makes it to court — that the six officers never should have been doing what police have been asked to do in mass numbers every day for 15 years now.

If an individual police officer does have a record of abuse or lies or some other misconduct, most cities make it nearly impossible for anyone on the wrong side of the blue wall to find it.

Every regional police force is governed by its own legal procedure, but New York and California offer excellent examples of the uphill climb toward transparency. In both of those states, a defense lawyer staring at what looks like a bogus police statement has to file a motion to the court asking for disclosure of a police officer’s personnel file. In New York, it’s called a Gissendanner motion; in California, a Pitchess motion. But to win these motions, you essentially need to have that information already. It’s yet another Catch-22. “In 99 percent of these cases, I get nothing,” says Nikhil Ramnaney, a Los Angeles defense attorney, stressing that he can’t speak for others’ experiences.

“Police are always complaining about the ‘Don’t snitch!’ campaigns,” says a Baltimore resident named Kato Simeto, an aspiring clothes designer and inventor. “But you almost never see police informing on each other. They’re more into ‘Don’t snitch’ than people on the street.”

Of course, where bureaucracy fails to cover things up, simple racism often steps in. Just ask Makia Smith, a 33-year-old accountant who grew up not far from where the Baltimore protests broke out. “I was on my way back from Wendy’s,” she says, recounting an incident in East Baltimore from March 2012. “My two-year-old daughter was in the back, in a car seat.”

Caught in traffic, Smith noticed a commotion, with a gang of police officers surrounding a young suspect. As she later alleged in a civil complaint, the boy was on the ground and one of the cops seemed to be getting dangerously aggressive. Concerned, Smith opened the door of her car and held up her phone as though filming the scene. “I was hoping that if they saw me,” she says, “then maybe they would stop doing what they were doing.”

Instead, she alleges, the following took place: An officer, later identified as Nathan Church, rushed at her, screaming, she says, “You want to film something, bitch? Film this!” Frightened, Smith tried to get back in her car. Church took her phone, smashed it on the ground and kicked it down the street. Then he dragged her out by her hair, at which point she momentarily blacked out. Eventually, she claims, police threw her on the hood of her Saturn, where she snapped awake and saw her two-year-old wailing in the back seat. She began to panic: If she got arrested, who would take care of the baby?

According to Smith’s complaint, police told her, in about the least reassuring manner possible, that child protective services was coming to take her daughter. It’s an example of how completely black America distrusts the police and the government that Smith chose to allow a little girl standing on the side of the road, a stranger, to take her baby for her, rather than give the child to CPS. As she was dragged off to that seemingly omnipresent paddy wagon, Smith called out her mother’s cellphone number, so that the little girl could get in touch with the baby’s grandmother.

Smith ended up in jail overnight and didn’t reunite with her daughter until 24 hours later. Playing the usual game of police-abuse chicken, authorities hit her with a list of charges, ranging from assault in the second degree against a police officer (“They say I took on four healthy male officers,” she says), to resisting, to a host of traffic offenses.

Smith, an educated young woman, did everything right after the incident, hiring a lawyer and successfully navigating the traps and land mines designed to make cases like hers go away. She never signed away her right to sue, never allowed the case to be expunged, never took a pennies-on-the-dollar deal that would have let the police off the hook.

And what happened? The police denied her allegations, claiming the arrest was legitimate, and she watched her case implode in what’s supposed to be the corruption-proof stage of the process, a trial by a jury of her “peers.”

“The cops’ defense team struck every black witness,” she says, and her case was heard by an all-white jury, which ultimately found the police innocent of misconduct.

Broken Windows has left a major footprint on modern American society, primarily on the 65 million or so people who have criminal records in this country. That’s a population roughly the size of France.

You can easily find the collateral damage from this vast illegal war on crime just by walking into certain neighborhoods and asking. From bad arrests to beatings to broken bones, there are enough horror stories to fill a thousand Ken Burns documentaries. But good luck finding any of that misconduct and abuse on an official record. What you mostly find when you search are a lot of convictions and a whole lot of statistical noise. The dirt, as it often is in this country, is mostly hidden away.

The real problem with Broken Windows is that it brings the same attitude to neighborhoods that corrections officers bring to prisons. “You have guys locked up for serious crimes, you’re supposed to be controlling them,” says Anthony Miranda. “But in neighborhoods, you’re not supposed to be controlling people. You’re supposed to be working with them. You’re supposed to be serving them. And that attitude is what’s missing.”

As a former minority officer, Miranda says he and others like him are especially motivated to find solutions: “We’re on both sides. We’re in the force, but we also live in these neighborhoods. So we need to find an answer.”

But the numbers game has rotted the police system to the point where it can’t see the forest for the trees. “They don’t see it,” says Miranda. “They’re too ignorant, and it’s a shame.”

From The Archives Issue 1236: June 4, 2015

“Signed…An Educated Brother!”

Posted in Criminal Justice System, Education, Education Reform, Inequality, Law, Mass Incarceration, Public School Education | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Nation: States Are Required to Educate Students Behind Bars. Here’s What Really Happens.

Since age 12, Cadeem Gibbs has struggled to reconcile his desire to learn with his incarceration.

When he was young, Cadeem Gibbs was really into school. Bright, curious, and naturally rebellious, he enjoyed arguing the opposing point of view in a classroom discussion just to see how well he could do it. “I was always academically inclined,” says the Harlem native, now 24. “I always wanted to learn.”

But there were plenty of stressors in his young life—a violent upbringing, a household in poverty—and the struggle to navigate them pulled him away from his education. He started getting into trouble and ended up in the juvenile justice system at the age of 12. That first contact with “the system” began a 10-year cycle of incarceration that ended only when Gibbs was released from an upstate New York prison two years ago, at the age of 22. He was just a sixth grader when first arrested, but he would never complete a school year as a free child again.

Americans believe that education is the great equalizer, the key that opens the door to a better future and lifts young people out of poverty. And this is true, to an extent—those who finish high school or college have lower unemployment rates and higher incomes than those who don’t. But while people who don’t complete their education are more likely to stay in poverty, they’re also more likely to come from poverty. In the 21st century, so-called reformers have emerged to prescribe everything from charter schools to iPads in order to boost poor students’ educational achievements.

Ignored is a trifecta of policies that prevent young people in poverty from finishing their education: high-stakes testing and the high-stakes discipline that comes with it; weak to nonexistent federal policy concerning education for those young people already involved with the juvenile justice system; and a lifetime of background checks that keep the formerly incarcerated from gaining degrees and finding jobs.

These intersecting policies, which push kids out of school and into a punitive legal system, are collectively known as the “school-to-prison pipeline.” But the individuals who emerge at the end of that pipeline, though criminalized, are still young people—a population that has a reasonable expectation to receive an education. So what happens to a young person’s schooling when he or she is taken out of the classroom and put behind bars?

For poor students of color, like Gibbs, the problems can begin early. These children were the target of George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind law, which was passed in 2002. The law mandated 100 percent student proficiency in math and reading by 2014. Schools that failed to make adequate yearly progress faced a set of sanctions ranging from staff firings and restructuring the school, to turning it into a charter school or handing it over to private management. Terrified of missing the NCLB guidelines, schools got rid of students who might hold back their numbers. Suspensions, expulsions, and school-based arrests skyrocketed in the wake of the new law, pushing hundreds of thousands of students out of school and, frequently, into the justice system. Such policies disproportionately affect students of color and students with disabilities—compared with their white peers, black youths are three and a half times more likely to be expelled and, if arrested, nine times more likely to receive an adult prison sentence. Even though overall youth crime has decreased since 1999, youth punishment has not: From 1999 to 2008, the number of total youth arrests fell more than 15 percent, while the number of juvenile-court cases remained virtually the same, falling only 4 percent. This means that while fewer young people are getting arrested, they continue to be processed through the system at the same high rates.

When Gibbs was arrested for firearm possession at school, he spent time in both secure and nonsecure facilities while attending his court dates. He then landed in an “alternatives to incarceration” program at Children’s Village, spending a year there. A residential campus in Dobbs Ferry, New York, 35 minutes outside of New York City, Children’s Village serves young people from both the juvenile-justice and child-welfare systems. Although the staff acted kindly toward him, Gibbs says he felt discouraged and resentful. He was placed in a special-education class, which made him feel like there was something wrong with him. He had weekly counseling sessions, which he hated; he says he would go into each session and sit in complete silence while the social worker asked him questions about his life, refusing to say a single word for the entire hour. It’s only now, in retrospect, that he realizes that his silence came from a lack of trust. “I didn’t know I didn’t trust her,” Gibbs says. “I just thought I didn’t want to be bothered. I was angry. I didn’t want to be there.”

When he was released from that placement and tried to reenter the regular school system, Gibbs hit a number of barriers. Because it was near the end of the school year, he had to finish middle school at Children’s Village, taking a 45-minute bus ride from his home in Harlem to Dobbs Ferry every day. Even so, he was behind in credits from all the classes he’d missed while in custody, and it was time for him to start high school. “It took me a while to find a school,” he says. “No school would accept me.” He ended up at an alternative high school serving young people who had been suspended, expelled, or otherwise pushed out of their community schools.

This type of barrier to reentry is a common one for young people hoping to return to their schools after a juvenile placement. The high-stakes testing standards under No Child Left Behind prompt schools to exclude students coming from the juvenile-justice system. Because those students are likely to have fallen behind academically, their potential for scoring poorly on tests becomes a liability, creating a perverse incentive structure in which it’s better to exclude high-needs students than it is to educate them. School districts can refuse to accept the partial credits earned during the time a child spent in custody—and they can also refuse to re-enroll that student entirely.

Even for those who do get a meaningful education inside the system, the trauma of being detained can have a long-lasting effect on young people, who are still developing in crucial ways. “It’s life-changing—any contact is impactful,” says Elijah Tax-Berman, a high-school social worker at a New York City network of schools that serve young people involved with the juvenile- or criminal-justice system, as well those who are homeless or in foster care. Some of the schools in which Tax-Berman works have installed metal detectors, and he says that some students have stopped attending school because of the indignities associated with the search process. “It may seem like a little thing: ‘Take the wrappers out of your pockets, turn in your cellphone, take off your belt.’ But they’ve had such a negative experience, they’re so uncomfortable with it, that they stop coming to school.” For those students, the metal detectors at the front door act as a literal barrier to entry.

* * *

“A lot of kids go into juvenile-justice facilities, and that’s the end of their education,” notes Jessica Feierman, supervising attorney at the Juvenile Law Center in Philadelphia. Underlying this problem is a patchwork of dysfunctional local policies. “There is a huge degree of variability as to what happens to a young person, depending on what state they’re in or even what part of the state they’re in.” In some states, the youth agency that administers juvenile justice—in other words, the system itself—is also responsible for education. In other states, the responsibility is not in the hands of the state agency, but the local or county school district. “We found that both of those systems have some structural challenges,” says David Domenici, founding principal of the Maya Angelou Academy, the school inside Washington, DC’s, long-term juvenile facility. When school districts are in charge, juvenile inmates may not be a top priority for superintendents, who are busy overseeing all the schools in their district and ensuring that each is making yearly progress in the high-stakes education climate of No Child Left Behind. And when juvenile-justice agencies are in charge, Domenici adds, many of the facilities were set up decades ago as part of a “lock ‘em up” correctional approach in which school was also not a top priority. Then, “as an afterthought, people started to think, ‘Oh my gosh, we’re responsible for educating these people.’”

Being held in the custody of the juvenile-justice system can take a number of forms, from nonsecure residential placements (some of which are meant to resemble a homelike setting) to secure correctional facilities, or “lockup” for children. Only half of the young people in residential placements around the country reported having “good” education programs at their facilities, and less than half (45 percent) spent a full school day (at least six hours) receiving instruction. Those numbers come from the Department of Justice; its Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention surveys young people in residential placements across the country to assess their needs and the services they receive. The same survey found that a third of the young people in custody had a diagnosed learning disability. That’s seven times the rate of the general public-school population—and less than half were receiving the special-education services they have a legal right to. A stunning 70 percent of the young people had, like Gibbs, experienced some kind of trauma at some point in their lives.

And while a school schedule may operate on semesters or trimesters, juvenile placements do not—adding yet another logistical challenge not only for system-involved students, but for educators. “Kids come in and out a lot,” Domenici explains. Again like Gibbs, children are often transferred between several facilities before landing in a long-term placement, by which point they’ve missed weeks or even months of school. “And everyone just says, ‘Well, everyone in the whole District of Columbia is supposed to be on page 89 of their algebra book and chapter 16 of their humanities book,’” Domenici notes. That’s an unrealistic approach for any student, but especially those who have already had negative experiences in school. “I’m a very big fan of increased expectations for kids—but for kids who have been totally disengaged, we need to find a way to get them reengaged.”

To that end, Domenici has purposefully designed his school’s curriculum around themes that relate to their experience—relationships, change, choice, power, and justice. The academic year is broken up into eight units, and each unit has 22 days of instruction. Students earn credits for each completed unit, which means that even if they’re released in the middle of the school year, they leave with the credits they’ve accumulated during their time there.

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It’s a simple solution to what Domenici describes as a set of deeply structural and philosophical problems regarding how to educate young people in the juvenile justice system. Beyond immediate trauma, system-involved young people often have other factors in their lives that prevent education from being the door-opener it’s understood to be. Obtaining a degree is hardly a guarantee of financial security for any young person, much less one who is living in poverty. “Our young people struggle with its relevancy,” says Tax-Berman. ”I struggle with them struggling with its relevancy. I can’t stand here and say, ‘You need to do well in school and everything will be OK,’ because it’s not [true]. You need to feed your family.”

According to Gibbs, that’s exactly why he kept winding up back in the system: The external circumstances of his life hadn’t changed. Not long after entering his alternative high school, he got into trouble again and was sent back to Children’s Village. When he got out the second time, it took him several months to find another school. He started at a regular city high school after the academic year had already begun, was expelled before the semester was over, and was arrested shortly after being expelled. By that time, he was 16 and an adult in the eyes of New York—the only state besides North Carolina that still prosecutes all 16-year-olds as adults. That meant he was headed to Rikers Island.

“It was terrifying because I was young, and I was around people much older than I was,” says Gibbs, who explains that even though youths under 18 are housed separately, they are frequently exposed to the adult population in common areas. “It’s like maybe [adult prisoners] might prey on me—and not even only that, but the corrections officers too.” Gibbs did feel targeted by the guards and other prisoners, but he did his best to cope and, upon his release, earned a GED on his own. At 17, Gibbs was arrested again on a drug charge and sent back to Rikers. He says he expressed interest in attending school while he was there, but was prohibited from doing so because he already had his GED.

In December 2014, the Justice Department and the Department of Education issued federal guidelines regarding correctional education in juvenile-justice facilities, outlining some of the key issues that the country’s 60,000 children in custody face in continuing their schooling. The extensive package addresses the educational and civil rights of students during their incarceration and through their transition back into the community. It’s “a critical step in helping increase access to education for young people involved in the juvenile-justice system,” says Jenny Collier, a project consultant for the Robert F. Kennedy Juvenile Justice Collaborative. A number of the guidelines reflect the struggles of young people like Gibbs; they include raising academic standards for those in custody and implementing more rigorous reentry programs to support those students as they return to their community schools.

But there’s an even bigger issue to address than those massive systemic obstacles, says Domenici: “There’s a big philosophical problem here. There clearly are a lot of people in youth facilities who want these kids to be successful and who believe in them. But there are plenty of people who believe that these are kids who have stolen cars, beat people up, chronically steal, whatever—and [that they] just don’t deserve to be in a great school.” This all-too-common way of looking at the issue prevents stakeholders from approaching the education of young people in juvenile facilities with the financial, organizational, and personal investment necessary to make it a meaningful experience.

* * *

Even if a system-involved young person manages to navigate these institutional barriers and external factors and succeeds in getting a degree, he or she will still face tremendous obstacles. Dina Sarver, a married mother of two in Florida, was arrested on three counts of grand theft auto when she was 15 and sent to a residential facility. The placement was a truly rehabilitative setting focused on pregnant teenagers, and Sarver says that it gave her the resources and support to get her life on track. After being discharged, she earned a high-school diploma and was accepted into an associate-degree program for registered nursing, where she hoped to become a nurse practitioner. At her second orientation, she asked the department manager about background checks and was told that a juvenile felony record was an automatic disqualification from the program. Sarver went on to complete a bachelor’s degree in healthcare management, but her final class required an internship, and that called for a background check. Only with the help of two public defenders who advocated on her behalf was she able to graduate.

Sarver is now 23. In Florida, most juvenile records are expunged when the offender turns 24 or 26, depending on conviction history and the offense. Until then, her record is available to any potential employer. Even after that, employers in certain fields, like those involving children, the disabled, and the elderly, still have a right to her expunged record. This is devastating for Sarver, who still wants to work in healthcare. “All these doors are closing in your face, and you don’t know what to do,” she says. “And sometimes it’s discouraging, because here you are, trying to do everything you can to become a productive member of society. I’m trying to get my education, become a better person, become a better mom, and I can’t do that because I’m so confined.” She can’t even go on her son’s field trips, because the school district runs a check on chaperones.

Cadeem Gibbs’s carceral experience culminated in a sentence served in an upstate New York prison, where he finally had access to books, magazines, and high-quality college courses. It was the most engaging educational experience he’d had since entering the system. He completed a human-services certificate program, maintained a high grade-point average, and accumulated a number of credits. When he was released last year, he enrolled at a community college—only to find out, once again, that many of the credits he’d earned didn’t transfer. “And I guess I’m at the point now where I don’t want to pursue a formal education. I’ve been kind of turned off by it,” he says. Instead, he’s been focusing on youth advocacy, such as the Raise the Age campaign fighting to change the state law that treats 16- and 17-year-olds like adults. He also works as a consultant for the Washington, DC–based Children’s Defense Fund. He remains passionate about education, but fears that spending more time and money on school won’t get him closer to his dreams, especially given his record.

“Things as menial as stockroom positions present challenges to you if you have a conviction,” he says. “So they kind of paint you into a corner—they tell you they want you to be militant and do all this time, and you come out and there’s limitations on the things that you can do.” Gibbs’s record can affect his ability to obtain public housing—even private housing if the landlord runs a background check. “The irony is, I still have to provide for myself,” he says. “So if I can’t have access to all these things, what am I supposed to do?”

Although he’s been doing well since his release, Gibbs worries about other people in the same position. “The uniqueness about me is that I kind of defied the odds and all that. Which is cool—it’s a great story,” he says. “But that shouldn’t have to be the case, because not everyone is going to think like me and navigate these obstacles.” Stories about those who have defied the odds, he thinks, leave out the vast majority of people who continue to be marginalized. “You’re talking about the lion’s share of the population that experiences this,” he adds. “This is what the day-to-day adversity is.”

The equalizing potential of education relies on the premise that it can open doors for every child who has access to it. But where does that leave the children whose lives consist not of open doors, but of locked ones?

“Signed…An Educated Brother!”

Posted in Criminal Justice System, Law, Mass Incarceration, Public School Education, Racism | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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