Director of the Kansas Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (KIPCOR) and faculty member at Bethel College Gary Flory spoke about what he called "The School-to-Prison Pipeline" during Bethel College's Life Enrichment series on Wednesday.

Flory said "School-to-Prison Pipeline" is term that is tossed around a lot and one he takes a particular interest in.

After tying aspects of his history in various professional and educational roles to the subject, Flory began by stating that "there is clearly a correlation between education and prison."

Having first stated the importance of grounding the education/prison relationship in facts, Flory began by presenting data about prisons and incarceration rates – for the purpose of providing an adequate factual context.

Flory said national data suggests the United States incarcerates more people, per capita, than any other nation in the world (more than 2.3 million).

U.S. incarceration increased dramatically in the 1980s, which Flory said was partly due to President Ronald Reagan's drug policies and the war on drugs.

Flory also said the United States has the highest incarceration rate among its other NATO members, as well as the highest rate for women incarcerated in the world.

"We are not a culture that resists putting people in prison for a long time," Flory said.

Beginning in roughly 1980, Flory said Kansas jumped to nearly double the rate of incarceration and then gradually rose to where it is now – with more than 300 people incarcerated per 100,000 people in the state.

Flory said combined Bureau of Justice statistics (imprisonment rates) and FBI (crime rates), presented in data compiled by Pew Charitable Trusts in 2014, from 2008 to 2013, shows that the crime rate in Kansas actually decreased 13 percent (only two U.S. states showed an increase) while the Kansas imprisonment rate increased by 7 percent.

That data showed that Kansas had the third highest imprisonment increase in the country, and was only outdone by West Virginia and Arkansas. Despite what has been stated by the President, Flory said crime rates are, in reality, decreasing overall.

Nationally, and according to 2010 U.S. Census data, Flory said blacks are incarcerated five times more than whites and Hispanics are nearly twice as likely to be incarcerated as whites.

Speaking about how having a jailed parent effects children, and according to a descriptive overview of 2014 data for Alameda and San Fransisco County, California jails, Flory said 30 percent of parents reported that their children did not know they were in jail at the time of the survey and another 11 percent of parents stated they did not know if their children knew they were in jail.

In that same study, Flory noted 27 percent of parents reported that their children had to change homes because a parent went to jail, 16 percent of parents reported that their children had to change schools because a parent went to jail and 63 percent of families lost family income because a parent went to jail.

This is where social justice comes in, Flory said, as children and families are indeed effected by the incarceration of a parent.

According to a study by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the total people incarcerated under the Kansas Department of Corrections (KDOC's) jurisdiction in FY2013 was 10,381, requiring an annual budget of $296,506,532 and an average annual cost of $24,506 per inmate.

Nonetheless, Flory said the Kansas prison population is projected to increase by 22.6 percent from 2013 to 2023, and in 2012, the number of inmates already exceeded facilities’ capacity by 236 prisoners. That data, also from ALEC, accounted for state prisons, but did not consider those incarcerated in local jails.

Referencing the November 2015 Final Report of the Kansas Juvenile Justice Workgroup (appointed by Governor Sam Brownback), Flory said the cost of incarcerating juveniles is much more expensive.

More than two-thirds or over $53 million of KDOC’s juvenile services budget was spent on out-of-home placements – at a cost of as much as $89,000 per-year, per-youth – over 10 times the cost of probation.

According to a separate study done by Pew Charitable Trusts, in 2008, 1.8 percent or one out of every 57 20-to-34-year-old white men who had their GED or a high school diploma spent time incarcerated. One out of eight (or 12 percent) of white men in that same age bracket, without a GED or a high school diploma, were incarcerated.

That same study showed 11.9 percent or one out of every nine 20-to-34-year-old, black men, who had their GED or a high school diploma, spent time incarcerated (in 2008). One out of three black men (or 37.1 percent) in that same age bracket, without a GED or a high school diploma, were incarcerated.

In addition, 3.7 percent or one out of every 27 20-to-34-year-old, Hispanic men, who had their GED or a high school diploma, spent time incarcerated. One out of 14 Hispanic men (or seven percent) of those in that age range, without a GED or a high school diploma were incarcerated.

Flory said this data does not show that lack of education is the cause of incarceration, but instead shows a correlation (and a clear one) between high school and incarceration.

Pulling from a large study done in the State of Texas, Flory said suspensions and expulsions are common, but most disciplinary actions occur at the discretion of school officials and are not the result of behaviors mandating discipline. 

Only three percent of the disciplinary actions reviewed in the Texas study were for conduct mandating suspension or expulsion under Texas law. All other disciplinary actions were discretionary and most commonly involved violations of a school’s code of conduct rather than criminal behavior.

Students who are suspended or expelled are more likely to repeat a grade or drop out of school, especially when disciplined repeatedly.

In the cases of mandatory disciplinary violations (three percent of violations), black, Hispanic and white students were removed from school at rates comparable to their respective proportions of the school population – as were students with disabilities.

However, in the case of discretionary disciplinary violations (97 percent of violations), minority students and students with disabilities were disciplined and had contact with the juvenile justice system at an “alarmingly disproportionate rate.”

Flory said no studies have examined how non-suspended students fare in high-suspension environment, but it could be predicted that non-suspended students in schools with elevated levels of exclusionary discipline will suffer academic declines through the collateral consequences of a punitive environment.

For that reason, Flory said excessive use of exclusionary discipline creates a culture of control – one that impedes the success of all students.