Disrupting the School-to-Prison Pipeline

CTS helps school systems devise and implement new strategies that promote restorative, positive approaches to discipline. Many learning institutions promote traditional school-based disciplinary interventions that rely upon the use of “zero-tolerance” — a strict enforcement of the school’s regulations and of its bans against certain behaviors.

This approach can be especially harmful for youth who have experienced trauma. Research demonstrates that such disciplinary actions are often the first step in leading young people down a path from their school institutions to the prison system. Studies also show these severe policies disproportionately penalize students of color for non-violent and even trivial offenses.

Current work:

Juvenile Justice Study

Researchers and policymakers in Los Angeles county give too little attention to education strategies that can change the trajectories of juveniles in corrections. Nearly one third of juveniles return to the corrections system within a year. This high rate of recidivism, or the tendency of a convicted individual to reoffend, has given rise to calls for alarm and reform. Additionally, costs associated with the incarceration of juveniles totals over two hundred thousand dollars per year, per inmate in juvenile detention.

Working with the Los Angeles County Office of Education’s (LACOE) Juvenile Court Schools System and the Probation Department, CTS is undertaking an exploratory study on learning and education quality in the juvenile justice camps through the eyes of the students themselves. Our study includes youth enrolled in the new Road to Success Academy (RTSA), an award-winning model of instruction and intervention for incarcerated youth.

Our research will inform Los Angeles County agencies that serve youth and will be released as part of a public forum with key Los Angeles area stakeholders, including county offices and agencies, the board of supervisors, the city council and members of the state legislature.