The rural school to prison pipeline
October 7, 2014 7:34 AM   Subscribe

 
Yeah, this stuff sucks. Even among white men, the chance you end up in the justice system at some point in your life is way too high. This is why I wish the MRA cancer would disappear off the Earth, men do actually have some unique issues as a gender that we desperately need to work out. Having the face of men's issues be a hate group is ruinously counterproductive. We need to figure out how to be less violent as boys and men, we need to figure out how to obey the law, we need to figure out how to have our strength be used in positive ways rather than abusive ways. It makes me sad.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:50 AM on October 7, 2014 [29 favorites]


“His aftercare plan is us, his family,” says Kathy.

This is why life is hard for young folks who don't have families, people that age out of the system with no structure to follow it.
posted by oceanjesse at 7:54 AM on October 7, 2014 [6 favorites]


maybe if we used grant money to help people (like it is supposed to be used) instead of paying for higher and higher capacity private prisons, then the issue of being "less" violent and obeying the "law" would sort itself out
posted by rebent at 7:55 AM on October 7, 2014 [8 favorites]


maybe if we used grant money to help people (like it is supposed to be used) instead of paying for higher and higher capacity private prisons, then the issue of being "less" violent and obeying the "law" would sort itself out

That would definitely help, yeah, but there are issues beyond that. My own issues with the law when I was young would not have been solved just by fixing the support system for people coming out of prison. I didn't learn and accept how dangerous my actions were. I literally thank God I never ended up accidentally hurting someone with my irresponsible actions. I think via either biology or upbringing young men and boys are primed to make the kind of mistakes I did. We aren't doing a good enough job anticipating that and putting them on a different path.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:02 AM on October 7, 2014 [4 favorites]


Fantastic article.

The justice system in the US feeds on young men and deprives the next generation of boys of real fathers, becoming a self-perpetuating destructive cycle.

This will continue until we remove both the profit from the cycle and stop dismissing the discussion of how destructive these programs are on men.
posted by unixrat at 8:04 AM on October 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's not so much about young men and boys doing, stupid, dangerous things, it's that the definition of dangerous and stupid, not to mention criminal has been defined ever downwards so issues that used to be resolved informally are now criminalised.

Also of people living in communities with little to nothing in the way of resources and a lot of boredom.
posted by MartinWisse at 8:33 AM on October 7, 2014 [20 favorites]


(sorry, this is possibly kind of a derail)

I'm reminded of a seminar I went to at the Smithsonians where Egyptologists explained how the pyramids were built, and it sounded like they were basically a cure for an overabundance of unruly bored young men. There was a walled neighborhood within the city near the pyramids that housed the workers. They were divided into teams and building was gamified. There's graffiti in the pyramids by these gangs showing their team spirit. This kept them busy, focused, and out of the way of the rest of the citizens.

Perhaps we need the WPA back? Seeing as our infrastructure is falling to pieces, we could kill two birds with one stone.
posted by antinomia at 8:52 AM on October 7, 2014 [43 favorites]


Yeah, I don't think you will find a single soul on Metafilter who will disagree with more work availability being a positive step here. One of the biggest disappointments I have with modern America is that we think we are too poor to build the pyramids. The only thing we have unlimited money for is bombs.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:03 AM on October 7, 2014 [30 favorites]




West Virginia’s geography represents a major hurdle to turning the juvenile incarceration rate around. “If you flatten all the mountains, you’d have one of the biggest states in the country,” says Joey Garcia, deputy counsel to West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.

Um, what. Is this meant to be an example of the horseshit reasoning that's causing their current social problems.
posted by Mapes at 9:07 AM on October 7, 2014 [9 favorites]


Yeah, this stuff sucks. Even among white men, the chance you end up in the justice system at some point in your life is way too high. This is why I wish the MRA cancer would disappear off the Earth, men do actually have some unique issues as a gender that we desperately need to work out. Having the face of men's issues be a hate group is ruinously counterproductive.

It will disappear when more positive groups are outspoken and productive about the issues men face as a gender. If alienated young men are offered a choice between a group that says their dirt-poor ass is entitled, privileged, and undeserving of sympathy when others have it worse, or a group that offers compassion and help, they'll choose the latter, even if it comes with a lot of nasty baggage. Wishing won't make it go away. It won't disappear until there's a better alternative.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 9:10 AM on October 7, 2014 [9 favorites]


I've seen this dynamic in full effect in places like East Point in Florida. In fact, when I was a younger man, I even wrote a poem about it that started out with a line about how, growing up, I had always thought jail was like "finishing school for boys," because it was so common for the young men in places like East Point and Port St. Joe to do stints in jail for various petty offenses.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:37 AM on October 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


I believe the kid who said he was the only one locked in the closet and had been picked on in the past.

The scuffle hadn’t attracted the attention of the teacher, and Junior didn’t think much about it afterward.

A culture in which a kid is bullied with no consequences isn't better than one where there is overreaction and prison. If those are the only 2 choices, I'll take the latter, but maybe they're not the only 2 choices.
posted by Obscure Reference at 10:02 AM on October 7, 2014 [5 favorites]


The judge says:

“So many times I will remove a child and place him in a facility, if they’re on the verge of doing bad things or getting into drugs. When they have structure, they thrive.”

So he just knows someone is going to do bad things in the future and thus sentences them for 4 odd years?
posted by sfkiddo at 10:04 AM on October 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


"The only thing we have unlimited money for is bombs."

And that's one of the reasons why rural boys are often the target of aggressive military recruitment tactics - in a sick way, it *is* our jobs program for them.
posted by Selena777 at 10:09 AM on October 7, 2014 [7 favorites]


Um, what.

It's probably not literally true that WV would be "one of the biggest states in the country" by land area -- some napkin math suggests that even if the whole state were covered by mountains with a 50% slope, the actual land area is really only 40% more than the area enclosed by the state's borders -- but if you have ever spent any time in WV or other parts of Appalachia, to say that it feels big is an understatement. I think it is mostly a travel-time issue. Something that's only a few miles away can take half a day to get to, meaning that your horizons on a travel-time basis are correspondingly shortened.

Though I don't think geographic explanations are really as compelling as economic ones. Look at any area with high crime rates and you will find unemployment and lack of productive economic opportunities. You can't really fix geography, but you can fix the economic issues.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:13 AM on October 7, 2014 [10 favorites]


Former U.S. high-school teacher here. I feel somewhat bad for people in the education-industrial complex these days--it's surprisingly difficult to get rid of problem kids. That's a dynamic this article's a little short on, though they mention more schools having cops (with guns--and holding cells--good grief!). Young Mr. Smith sounds like a handful and the school was simply out of options. So when a kid does something illegal and harms other students or a teacher, it's sadly a kind of relief. 'Did you hear? He finally hit a teacher! Oh thank God he's someone else's problem now!'
posted by resurrexit at 10:13 AM on October 7, 2014 [6 favorites]


Mapes: Um, what. Is this meant to be an example of the horseshit reasoning that's causing their current social problems.

The very next sentence completes his thought.

"Programs that offer therapy and substance abuse treatment are scarce and widely dispersed, so judges sentence juveniles to facilities where treatment is available on site." And later in the article, "In smaller communities, those services could be up to 70 miles away, and families often could not get to them on a regular basis."

Mountains create spaces that are isolated from each other, not unlike islands. Transportation logistics are more difficult; 50 miles as the crow flies could be a 5 hour trip if you have to drive around mountains.

ugh, Kadin2048 got there first!
posted by desjardins at 10:19 AM on October 7, 2014 [5 favorites]


The kids seems like a total shithead, but I don't know that putting kids in prison for being jerks is reasonable. Just expel the kid.
posted by empath at 10:19 AM on October 7, 2014


get rid of problem kids.

Oh man, sorry, but you know the existence of this phrase is the problem, right?
posted by Drinky Die at 10:25 AM on October 7, 2014 [11 favorites]


I agree here that something bad is happening and that it is happening mostly to men. but i don't think that the solution is "men, as a class, need advocacy". The answers to the questions: What are the genders of the people doing the oppressing of men here? What are the genders of the people benefiting from it? can maybe guide us to find a better framing.
posted by thug unicorn at 10:25 AM on October 7, 2014 [6 favorites]


Oh man, sorry, but you know the existence of this phrase is the problem, right?

The problem is pointing out the problem? Fine, he's not a problem child, he's a POS?
posted by resurrexit at 10:32 AM on October 7, 2014


The kids seems like a total shithead, but I don't know that putting kids in prison for being jerks is reasonable. Just expel the kid.

How does ensuring that he'll have a lifetime of bad opportunities and poverty solve anything? The takeaway I got about him is that given access to treatment to get off drugs and therapy that he cleaned up his act and got started with a career.

Or did you not bother actually reading the article?

The problem isn't the kid, it's that the only way that the state provides the services he needed was in the prison system.
posted by Candleman at 10:46 AM on October 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


Judges should have alternatives other than jail and punishment for every problem that comes before them. Instead of always sentencing people to punishment, maybe they should be allowed to help people in non-punitive ways as well.

I don't think these issues have much at all to do with "men's rights": they are economic problems in nature. Men may react to their economic circumstances in characteristically unique ways that are informed by culture and biology, but that's not the underlying problem so much as a complex of symptoms reflecting other external factors that shape the disease process, I'd think.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:05 AM on October 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


Instead of always sentencing people to punishment, maybe they should be allowed to help people in non-punitive ways as well.

I've seen this happening with things like vandals of war monuments being sentenced to attend veterans' meetings/rallies/etc. It seems like judges have a bit of leeway (maybe especially with minors?) for creative sentencing. Maybe they don't feel like they do in a "tough on crime" atmosphere or somewhere where judges are elected. It probably doesn't happen often enough though.
posted by ODiV at 11:13 AM on October 7, 2014


It will disappear when more positive groups are outspoken and productive about the issues men face as a gender. If alienated young men are offered a choice between a group that says their dirt-poor ass is entitled, privileged, and undeserving of sympathy when others have it worse, or a group that offers compassion and help, they'll choose the latter, even if it comes with a lot of nasty baggage. Wishing won't make it go away. It won't disappear until there's a better alternative.

I am trying to put my finger on what's missing here, but having trouble. I do know that there is no feminist or liberal conspiracy oppressing these boys; it's a government and a society that doesn't care about anyone without money. For poor boys, this is what the problem looks like. For poor girls, there are some differences. But it sucks for them too.

If you mean, charities and liberal groups should spend more time trying to help the poor instead of focusing on gender equality, I don't think that's a fair assessment of what's going on and also I would posit that there is some intersectionality here.

The idea that boys are inherently violent; that men are beings who, by nature, abuse and use women and don't care about their children; that we should, as a society, not care either, not see caretaking and community and education as important (the implication often being those are "women's jobs")--these are part of patriarchy and conservatism, not of liberalism. Empathy and caretaking have become gendered female, and since we live in a sexist society, are not compensated or valued highly. A punitive, man-up, authoritarian setup hurts men quite a lot as well as women, and feminists recognize this and are vocal about wanting to tear it down.

Women are not more inherently nurturing than men, but men are socialized towards brutality and violence, as well as being denied the care they need when they are poor. So when they are bored, or hopeless, those are the things they turn to. And society, having already decided they are trouble and a problem (unless it can find some other use for them, like war), puts them in jail. It's an intersection of different but related shitty things.

I don't think MRAs actually do offer compassion and help. Maybe a sounding-box at first. But when it comes to actually helping a boy who's been assaulted, or a kid facing prison, I am not aware of them taking any effective action at all, opening any shelters, pushing any helpful laws. I do know they have tried to shut down shelters and hotlines, which help not only women but their children, male and female. From what I have read of gangs and hate groups, they replicate an authoritarian pattern, and violence against members and scapegoating are common. They don't provide any real refuge. Of course, by that point a young man has probably gotten in too deep to get out with his psyche intact.

The things liberals/ left-leaning feminists want; an end to rape culture, an end to conflating violence with manliness, access to birth control and reproductive choice, equal pay, more women in government, a better social safety net, healthcare for all, better schools--do not just benefit girls. Boys and men stand to gain enormously from such changes.

But I don't think we have to give every troubled poor kid a lecture in gender studies. If we just helped them with money, education, treatment and opportunities, and included the message that doing so is the proper job of our entire society, not just of overstressed families or women, then we'd be getting somewhere.
posted by emjaybee at 11:16 AM on October 7, 2014 [33 favorites]


I don't think MRAs actually do offer compassion and help. Maybe a sounding-box at first. But when it comes to actually helping a boy who's been assaulted, or a kid facing prison, I am not aware of them taking any effective action at all, opening any shelters, pushing any helpful laws. I do know they have tried to shut down shelters and hotlines, which help not only women but their children, male and female.

Exactly. In their current incarnation, the men's rights movement is dedicated almost entirely to attacking women to tear them down rather working with them to help men up. Apart from scattered groups dealing with custody issues, there is no assistance being offered. It has come down to other movements, including (GASP!) feminism, to work tirelessly to include male victims of not just personal (domestic, sexual) violence, but systemic violence as well. The fact that their efforts to do so are often attacked or even sabotaged by the men's rights movement doesn't mean that those efforts are as mythical as they are so often made out to be. The alternatives dismissed as wishful thinking exist. Pretending that they don't or portraying them as faceless, uncaring enemies of the people described in the article isn't speaking some sort of truth to power, quite the opposite. It's a manufactured narrative that gives the system failing these people the power it needs to continue grinding them down.
posted by zombieflanders at 11:28 AM on October 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


/I am trying to put my finger on what's missing here, but having trouble. I do know that there is no feminist or liberal conspiracy oppressing these boys;

There no place for them in our society. In the past they would have worked hard from adolescence, often alongside older male relatives and married young. Raised kids in a fairly stable community of other young couples raising kids. Nowadays we tell young people not to get married until they're 30, which makes total sense if you're going to college and establishing a white collar career but leaves kids like this out of the loop. Combine that with testosterone, boredom, lack of physical exercise, lack of older males and no money and this is what you get.

Also some of them are just not nice people. There's always that 2% in any group.
posted by fshgrl at 11:29 AM on October 7, 2014 [7 favorites]


How does ensuring that he'll have a lifetime of bad opportunities and poverty solve anything?

Expulsion does no such thing. He can get a GED later and get a job, etc. Look, the kid was assaulting other children who were trying to get an education. Getting the bullies out of school *regardless of what that means for the bully* is a good thing.

Get them therapy and help after they're no longer actively terrorizing classmates.
posted by empath at 11:41 AM on October 7, 2014 [8 favorites]


Yeah, I think the job issue is paramount. There are just not that many jobs for uneducated / poorly educated people now (partly because of industrialization, partly because we shoved it all into poorer countries). The slack labor market ensures that the jobs that do exist are mostly terrible. The rural element just makes it worse; either you're stay put and deal with the almost invariably awful local economy, or you move and have your clothing, accent, and mannerisms work against you. Combine that with a poor education and you could end up at the bottom of the bottom of the employment barrel.
posted by Mitrovarr at 11:47 AM on October 7, 2014 [10 favorites]


And the bottom of the employment barrel in the US is unlivable. You have to hustle just to survive, never mind establishing any kind of stability or security in your finances or interpersonal relationships. It's no wonder young poor kids of either gender and any background either join the military or drift towards the edges of society. They don't have a lot of choice.
posted by fshgrl at 12:13 PM on October 7, 2014 [4 favorites]


fshgrl's excellent comment reminded me of something I'd read recently about how social policies geared toward the liberal fulfillment of the lives of an elite white class (elite in terms of opportunities and wealth, which in turn insulates its class members from poor decision-making such as recreational drug-use, pre-marital sex, delayed marriage) are highly destructive for the white working class, who don't have the opportunities and wealth to recover when the consequences of those actions finally take hold. Will try to find it.....
posted by resurrexit at 12:49 PM on October 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


I don't think this was it, but this article is close enough to what I understood fshgrl to be saying:
[Re] the "no guardrails" theory — a theory that basically says the rich and famous can afford to live a bacchanalian existence, while those who emulate them pay the price.

A lifestyle of addiction, promiscuity, and chaos comes with a hefty price tag. Sadly, our elites are exporting those values to the people least capable of sustaining them. If you don't believe me, just watch MTV.

Aside from the money in their bank accounts, the spoiled kids featured on My Super Sweet Sixteen aren't terribly different from those featured in the trailer for MTV's upcoming reality series Buckwild. The difference, of course, is that the West Virginia kids being glamorized in Buckwild will grow old before their time — if they live long enough to grow old, that is. Most will likely spend the rest of their lives paying for the sins of their youth. The rich kids, on the other hand — well, they will likely land on their feet.
posted by resurrexit at 1:12 PM on October 7, 2014 [4 favorites]


Early childhood education. Early childhood education. Early childhood education...
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:21 PM on October 7, 2014 [6 favorites]


Expulsion does no such thing. He can get a GED later and get a job

lol, this is precisely the issue. If this was a discussion about girls nobody would seriously suggest, "Lets just expel her! She can get a GED and a job as a secretary or something." Look, I have no idea what the solution is, but "Stop coming to school!" is not a solution anybody should endorse.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:36 PM on October 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


And if it was a discussion about girls, or men of color, no one would look at the stats on incarceration and say "Well, maybe a whole lot of them are just no damn good."
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 1:56 PM on October 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's no wonder young poor kids of either gender and any background either join the military or drift towards the edges of society. They don't have a lot of choice.

Definitely. Nobody wants to associate with a "loser," after all. And people who don't have healthy social networks fail. Sometimes spectacularly and publicly, sometimes quietly while no one's looking. But either way, it's what happens, and personal choice doesn't have much to do with it after a point, once a person's sufficiently isolated and cut-off from respectability.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:57 PM on October 7, 2014


lol, this is precisely the issue. If this was a discussion about girls nobody would seriously suggest, "Lets just expel her! She can get a GED and a job as a secretary or something." Look, I have no idea what the solution is, but "Stop coming to school!" is not a solution anybody should endorse.

You know, bringing up a bunch of 'mens rights' shit in this thread after saying you don't want to be associated with them is pretty poor form.
posted by empath at 2:25 PM on October 7, 2014


*shrug* I dunno what to tell you. "Just get a GED," is a bad education policy.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:28 PM on October 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


Beating up other kids is a bad way to get a high-school diploma.
posted by empath at 2:41 PM on October 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


it's surprisingly difficult to get rid of problem kids.

Seems to me like we'd have fewer 'problem kids' if we actually dealt with the problems--poverty, lack of opportunity/future--instead of throwing kids away. Which, PS, is exactly why we have 'problem kids' in the first place.

empath, 'just get a GED' is horseshit. It costs money--which is going to be in short supply if you've been kicked out of school. It costs time. It costs effort. It requires the very study habits that are theoretically inculcated in school. Yes, sure, people overcome these hurdles. But... maybe, just maybe, we'd do better if we got rid of the hurdles in the first place?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:30 PM on October 7, 2014 [5 favorites]


I hate the structure arguement. That magically structure makes kids thrive. Yes structure is needed but you know what else is four years long and provides structure? High School.

Maybe if we put services where kids should be anyway instead of sending them off to prison all states would be better off.
posted by AlexiaSky at 3:39 PM on October 7, 2014 [2 favorites]




I grew up in a small town. When I was in high school, my mother told me to leave because there was no future for me there, and I did. In the 20 years since then, I have seen so many peers who were really bright (advanced-placement and then college) go back. Their family needed support or they just hit a wall in whatever city they moved to. It's not like these really intelligent, fully educated folks are now earning a great living in their hometown--they're working at places like the Tractor Supply or the Wal-Mart, if they're working, because that's about it. There is no service economy to educate yourself for because there is so little money flowing through the town.

I am dubious that the solution for these troubled young men who aren't achieving is more education. If that's the answer, then you're just pushing them toward the cities where that makes a difference, and A) good luck with that, B) I think I heard something during the last decade about there being employment difficulties in big cities.
posted by heatvision at 5:12 AM on October 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


I think the solution is not just more education. It's more education plus opportunity. The pursuit of happiness is more or less meaningless if everyone doesn't start from a similar baseline, and if opportunities aren't equal.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:16 AM on October 8, 2014


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