The School-to-Prison Pipeline
Education, Discipline, and Racialized Double Standards
by Nancy A. Heitzeg
April 2016, 178pp, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-3111-9
$65, £50, 57€, A90
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eBook Available: 978-1-4408-3112-6
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The problem of “imputation of crime to color” described by Frederick Douglass in the 19th century is still widespread today.

This book offers a research and comparison-driven look at the school-to-prison pipeline, its racial dynamics, the connections to mass incarceration, and our flawed educational climate—and suggests practical remedies for change.

How is racism perpetuated by the education system, particularly via the “school-to-prison pipeline?” How is the school to prison pipeline intrinsically connected to the larger context of the prison industrial complex as well as the extensive and ongoing criminalization of youth of color? This book uniquely describes the system of policies and practices that racialize criminalization by routing youth of color out of school and towards prison via the school-to-prison pipeline while simultaneously medicalizing white youth for comparable behaviors.

This work is the first to consider and link all of the research and data from a sociological perspective, using this information to locate racism in our educational systems; describe the rise of the so-called prison industrial complex; spotlight the concomitant expansion of the “medical-industrial complex” as an alternative for controlling the white and well-off, both adult and juveniles; and explore the significance of media in furthering the white racial frame that typically views people of color as “criminals” as an automatic response. The author also examines the racial dynamics of the school to prison pipeline as documented by rates of suspension, expulsion, and referrals to legal systems and sheds light on the comparative dynamics of the related educational social control of white and middle-class youth in the larger context of society as a whole.


  • Provides readers with an understanding of the realities of the school-to-prison pipeline—its history, development, and racialized context and meaning—as well as the continued significance of race and other socially differentiating factors in shaping public policy and everyday decisions regarding "deviance," "discipline," and social control
  • Examines the under-explored dynamic that places a predominantly white teaching staff in schools that are predominantly schools of color, and considers the roles that stereotypes and cultural conflicts play in the labeling of students
  • Suggests viable options for action towards dismantling the institutionalized racism revealed by the school-to-prison pipeline via both policy reforms and transformational alternatives
  • Presents information relevant to a range of college courses, such as education, sociology of deviance, sociology of education, youth studies, legal studies, criminal justice, and racial/ethnic studies
Nancy A. Heitzeg, PhD, is professor of sociology and codirector of the interdisciplinary Critical Studies of Race/Ethnicity Program at St. Catherine University, St. Paul, MN. She has written and presented widely on issues of race, class, gender, and social control with particular attention to the school to prison pipeline the prison industrial complex. Her recent and forthcoming publications include “#BlackLivesMatter: The Implications of Social Media for Movement in the United States and Beyond” in Black Lives Matter: The Past, Present and Future of an International Movement for Rights and Justice; "On Ferguson" in a special edition of ProudFlesh: New Afrikan Journal of Culture, Politics, and Consciousness; "Criminalization and Medicalization: The School to Prison Pipeline and Racialized Double-Standards of Disciplinary Control" in Praeger's The Race Controversy in American Education; "The Civil Rights Act of 1964: Ending the Old Jim Crow, Foreshadowing the New" in Hamline Journal of Public Law and Policy; "'Whiteness,' Criminality, and the Double-Standards of Deviance/Social Control" in Contemporary Justice Review, Special Issue: Critical White Studies in Crime & Justice; "Criminalizing Education: Zero Tolerance Policies, Police in the Hallways, and the School to Prison Pipeline" in From Education to Incarceration; "The High Cost of Profit: Racism, Classism, and Interests against Prison Privatization" in Prison Privatization: The State of Theory and Practice; "Differentials in Deviance: Race, Class, Gender, and Age" in The International Handbook of Deviant Behavior; and "The Racialization of Crime and Punishment: Criminal Justice, Color-Blind Racism, and the Political Economy of the Prison Industrial Complex," which appeared in a special volume of American Behavioral Scientist: Micro-Level Social Justice Projects, Pedagogy, and Democratic Movements. For the past six years, Heitzeg has been coeditor of an online blog series, Criminal Injustice, which is devoted to encouraging public education, dialogue, and action on issues of mass criminalization and incarceration.


"Compelling. . . . Hetizeg’s book on the school-to-prison pipeline introduces the readers to an atrocious phenomenon, gives information on society’s impact on the growth of the pipeline, and finishes with a sense of optimism as she strives to see more education and less incarceration in America’s schools."—Adolescent Research Review, June 7, 2017
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