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How do Public Schools Operate like Prisons? Research Proposal

The Unknown's picture

Public schools and prisons reflect and reinforce societial expectations and the concerns and interests of the wealthy and powerful. How are public schools and prisons run/ designed/operated similarly? How is the experience of being a student in a public school similar to being locked-up? What are the contrasts between surveillance in public schools and prisons? What is the purpose of surveillance in these two institutions? How is punishment comparable in public schools and prisons? How are the objectives being met ot not? I want to focus on high school students in public schools, specifically in Philadelphia. One article I read, “Why Many Inner City Schools Function Like Prisons” by Alan Singer described how boredom and humiliation is used to maintain control of inmates and children in schools. Gangs similarly influence people’s choices, motivation and opportunities in schools and prisons. I would like to concentrate on policies and desired outcomes of public schools and prisons, rather than the prison-to-school pipeline, which I see as slightly different. For instance, I would like to explore the authoritarian structure in prisons and schools. How are the hierarchal systems in prisons and public schools similar, are they apart of the same system?

I think this will improve my knowledge about the structure and regulation in prisons. How does the public school system not only not offer enough opportunities and skills that people need to succeed in the way they choose, but how are public schools actually preparing and expecting children to go to prison? I want to explore more how two of the United States’ major institutions collaborate and feed off each other.

Here are some sources I found on this topic:














How are zero tolerance policies similar in prisons and public schools? It seems that behavior policies and expectations in schools and prisons correlate. Many black and Latino children are treated as prisoners by constantly being questioned and presumed to be guilty or creating a disturbance. How is school exclusion (suspensions and expulsions) a symbolic form of criminalization? How is the funding for policing in schools similar and connected to the funding involved in prisons? I was thinking about a particular article about educational behavior modification schools, where children have been isolated and tactics similar to prison have been used.

How is the school environment similar to prisons? How is hierarchical observation, normalization, and examination used in public schools and prisons?

 I was thinking about a particular article about educational behavior modification schools, where children have been isolated and tactics similar to prison have been used. How do prisons and schools react to behavior rather than people’s needs and factors that are responsible for that behavior?

I would like to limit my options, but another area of interest is how federal regulation or the lack there of is similar in both institutions. I would like help on finding specific prison and school policies that I could in-depthly analyze and deconstruct.

The increase in standardized testing is comparable in many ways is measuring people by their level of conformity and ability to adapt and accept social norms. Similarly, the prison industrial complex is constructed on laws and enforcement policies that are determined by whether or not people follow strict guidelines. 


kregensburg's picture

So we kinda got into this a bit in the coffeeshop on Sunday but I think that there are definite overlaps in our questions. As I start to add to my research about philiosophies of prisons I think we could share some sources between us. My goal is to be tracing the themes around incarceration and how that affects ideas about education in prison so I'll be sure to share any sources that speak to the goals of prisons since you mentioned in your proposal it is an area to explore. It would be interesting to see if any of your research compliments mine as we go forward. I think we both have deeper questions where we want to explore how we got to where we are today.