Alice Goffman: How we're priming some kids for college — and others for prison | Summary and Q&A

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Alice Goffman: How we're priming some kids for college — and others for prison

TL;DR

This content discusses the journey from college to prison that many American children are experiencing, highlighting the need for criminal justice reform.

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Questions & Answers

Q: What are the two institutions that oversee the journey from childhood to adulthood in the United States?

The two institutions are college and prison. College is often seen as a positive path, offering knowledge, connections, and opportunities in the labor market. On the other hand, prison is a negative path that leaves young people with criminal records and limited prospects.

Q: How has the incarceration rate in the United States changed over the past 40 years?

The incarceration rate in the United States has grown by 700 percent in the past 40 years. This increase has led to more and more young people being sent to prison, particularly those from poor African-American and Latino communities.

Q: What are some of the challenges faced by young people who end up in the prison system?

Young people who end up in the prison system face a multitude of challenges. They are forced to meet with probation officers instead of teachers, attend court dates instead of classes, and their future prospects are dampened by having a criminal record. They also often face court fees, probation and parole restrictions, and the constant fear of being stopped, searched, and seized by the police.

Q: Is there a connection between high incarceration rates and the low crime rate in the United States?

According to a committee of academics convened by the National Academy of Sciences, the relationship between high incarceration rates and low crime rates is shaky. The crime rate tends to fluctuate regardless of how many young people are sent to prison. There is a need to think more broadly about justice and consider alternative approaches that prioritize recovery, prevention, and civic inclusion.

Q: What encouraging developments are happening in the fight against mass incarceration?

There is a growing recognition of mass incarceration as a civil rights issue and efforts are being made to address racial disparity, sentencing reform, and police violence. States like New York, New Jersey, California, and Texas have been closing prisons, decreasing their prison populations, and investing in education. A coalition of diverse groups is working towards criminal justice reform, and the younger generation is being called upon to lead this important work.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • The American journey from childhood to adulthood is overseen by two institutions: college and prison.

  • College provides young people with knowledge, friendships, and better job opportunities, but comes with high costs.

  • The prison system is flawed and disproportionately affects poor kids, particularly those from African-American and Latino communities, leading to a permanent mark on their records and hindering their chances of success.

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