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The Prison to Prison Pipeline Skit

jane doe's picture

Last week, I decided to create a mock lesson plan scene surrounding the Elaine Bartlett story. I picked a scene from the book on her life that I thought was really salient and did it in the style of the workshops that I have been doing in a middle school. The students already have a prior understanding of what structural violence is and how the school structure leads to the funneling of Black youth into the prison system, but have not discussed how the prison structure acts as a magnet to suck those who try to leave back into it.  This scene is meant to be somewhere in the middle of a larger skit. 


Scene X

Narrator: On a Thursday in the middle of December, Elaine reported to her new parole officer, Officer Russell.  She had thought after Jamel’s case had been switched to another officer, that she would be free of Officer Russell, but that wasn’t the case. Over an hour and a half after she arrived at the office, she was called into the office


OR: Bartlett!


Russell signals Elaine to come into her office, and Elaine takes a seat, huffing and puffing.


E: It’s been over an hour. I still have to get to work-


R: You’re sitting on that side fo the desk; I’m sitting on this side. So who calls the shots? Be careful how you speak to me.


Elaine rolls her eyes. She’s frustrated and she never really liked Officer Russell.


R: Where do you work?


E: Did you read my chart? Did you even take the time to familiarize yourself with my case?


R: Where do you work? (pause) Just answer my question. Where do you work?


Elaine still doesn’t respond.


R: You’re violating Parole Rule 5, you must reply promptly, fully, and truthfully to any inquiry of or communication by my Parole Officer or other representative of the Division of Parole. This is the interaction that must take place when you make face-to-face reports. Where do you work?


E: Read my record. I’m not going to tell you a damn thing. You been disrespecting me, the way you’re talking to me, you won’t even read my case. I’m not going to be treated like that, whether I’m on parole or off.


R: Stand up.

Officer Russel cuffed Elaine’s hands behind her back.


R: Are you going to answer the question or are we going to have to take you in?


Elaine watches as Officer Russell dumps the contents of her pocketbook onto the desk. Elaine knew that she was preparing to take her in and she knew that she didn’t want to go back to Riker’s. She liked to think of herself as a political activist rather than a parolee.


R: Where do you work?


E: Project Renewal.


Follow up questions:

  • What do you think Elaine should have done in this situation? Do you think she was right for not answering Officer Russell’s question? Do you think she was right for answering it at the end? 
  • What could Officer Russell have done differently?
  • How is this an example of structural violence? 


Adaptation of Life on the Outside: The Prison Odyssey of Elaine Bartlett by Jennifer Gonnerman