Discovering the Real U.S. Prison Pipeline

11 Oct

I understand that Arne Duncan, the worst Secretary of Education in U.S. history, is talking about the alleged school-to-prison pipeline on Sirius talk radio today (Sunday, October 11, 2015).

For decades there has been a myth that a school-to-prison pipeline exists in the United States, and that the public schools are responsible for the exploding prison population.

This is a lie supported by propaganda paid for by the for-profit, autocratic, often fraudulent and inferior corporate education reform movement.

The U.S. had compulsory public education in every state by 1917, but the Prison Pipeline wasn’t built until the Nixon (1969 – 1974) and then Reagan (1981 – 1989) administrations.

Image for Prison and Jail Population from 1920 to 2013

  • In 1920, the population of the U.S. was 106 million with about 100 thousand in prison and jail (0.09% of the population).
  • In 1940, the population had reached 132 million with about 250,000 in prison and jail (0.18%)
  • In 1960, the population was up to 180.7 million and the prison population ratio was lower than 1940 (0.13%)
  • In 1970, Republican President Nixon declared war on drugs.
  • In 1980, the populated was 226.5 million and the prison population had just passed 500 thousand (0.22%).
  • By 2000, the population had reached 282.2 million, and the prison population hit 2 million (0.7%).

What caused the growth of the U.S. prison population after 1983 has nothing to do with America’s public schools and everything to do with the fraudulent, corrupt, autocratic, for-profit corporate education reform movement that parallels the growth of the private-sector for-profit prison movement in the U.S. that spends millions annually to lobby government to increase the length of prison sentences and increase the number of crimes that leads citizens, who mostly live in poverty and are illiterate, to prison.

In addition, the The Washington Post reported how for-profit prisons have become the biggest lobby no one is talking about

Federal and state governments have a long history of contracting out specific services to private firms, including medical services, food preparation, vocational training, and inmate transportation. The 1980s, though, ushered in a new era of prison privatization. With a burgeoning prison population resulting from the War on Drugs (In June 1970, President Nixon, another Republican like Reagan, declared this war on drugs) and increased use of incarceration, prison overcrowding and rising costs became increasingly problematic for local, state, and federal governments.

In response to this expanding criminal justice system, private business interests saw an opportunity for expansion, and consequently, private-sector involvement in prisons moved from the simple contracting of services to contracting for the complete management and operation of entire prisons.

The modern private prison business first emerged and established itself publicly in 1984 when the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) was awarded a contract to take over a facility in Hamilton County, Tennessee. This marked the first time that any government in the country had contracted out the complete operation of a jail to a private operator. The following year, CCA gained further public attention when it offered to take over the entire state prison system of Tennessee for $200 million. The bid was ultimately defeated due to strong opposition from public employees and the skepticism of the state legislature. Despite that initial defeat, CCA since then has successfully expanded, as have other for-profit prison companies. – Private Prisons in the United States

The real title of this prison pipeline should be ALL of the following options:

  • The Arne Duncan to Prison Pipeline
  • The David Coleman to Prison Pipeline
  • The Pearson to Prison Pipeline
  • The Walton family to Prison Pipeline
  • The Bill Gates to Prison Pipeline
  • The Eli Broad to Prison Pipeline
  • The Koch brothers to Prison Pipeline
  • The President Reagan to Prison Pipeline
  • The A Nation at Risk to Prison Pipeline
  • The G. W. Bush to Prison Pipeline
  • The Bill Clinton to Prison Pipeline
  • The President Obama to Prison Pipeline
  • The for-profit, autocratic often fraudulent and inferior corporate education reform movement to Prison Pipeline.
  • The for-profit war to privatize the public sector to Prison Pipeline.

To read more about what the autocratic, for-profit corporate education reform movement has done to build this pipeline to prison, I suggest you read the ACLU’s What is the School-to-Prison Pipeline?



Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, with a BA in journalism and an MFA in writing, who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

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14 responses to “Discovering the Real U.S. Prison Pipeline

  1. Lloyd Lofthouse

    October 11, 2015 at 16:41

    Reblogged this on Lloyd Lofthouse.

  2. PW Withering

    October 11, 2015 at 17:21

    Reblogged this on The Withering Apple and commented:
    A very troubling article by Lloyd Lofthouse. It sums up the pipeline better than anything I’ve read.

  3. dmaxmj

    October 11, 2015 at 18:00

    Lloyd, I liked this a lot. I think I dig your stuff because try-as-I-might…I get so amazed and so pissed at how it seems no one in a position of power calls out the nonsense peddlers of ed-reform,. No one says “Hey…wait a minute…Doomsday scenarios not connected to reality or correctly focused on the real problems…catchy slogans that mean little…accusations and finger-pointing instead of sharing the burden…undeserved praise and promotions…”

    Anyways, I feel bad that my emotions bleed into the things I write and I tend to put my smarty-pants on.

    Then I read your:

    “This is a lie supported by propaganda paid for by the for-profit, autocratic, often fraudulent and inferior corporate education reform movement”

    Strongly worded, but couldn’t be more true. I think the “opt out” movement, the obvious nature of the agenda of leaders who pretend to (but are paid to NOT) listen to very knowledgeable and concerned citizens, students, professional educators… I honestly think they are worried we can see behind the curtain and need to keep rolling out stuff like this. You know, baffle us with their you-know-what.

    We are not doing well on tests; more students need to be “colleged and careered”; parents should have choices; our schools put kids on a pipeline to prison; unions don’t care about kids…

    The reformers who come out with this stuff (I do think there are some well-meaning and positive agents of change) need so desperately to make people believe that if evil, failing schools get WalMart-ized, educational Nirvana will be there for all.

    Keep up the good work, I’m lovin it.

    • Lloyd Lofthouse

      October 12, 2015 at 08:07

      Thank you.

      “I do think there are some well-meaning and positive agents of change”

      I agree. There are people who actually believe all the hype, lies, cherry-picked facts, the propaganda designed to mislead, and the willingly climb on the bandwagon of false promises. Unfortunately, I think that these people are all ignorant fools. Should we forgive them as they unwittingly help the frauds and crooks destroy our democratic public schools, the jobs of more than 3 million teachers not counting the teachers own famlies who will be devastated and all the jobs lost that teachers salaries support when the profession loses not only the teachers’ unions but 25% of teachers’ income and most if not all benefits to the top 1%?

      Our job is to educate the ignorant and hopefully see many of them leave the ranks of the fools.

      Abraham Lincoln said it best: “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.

      And of course, Lord Action explained why we have the autocrats spending billions to destroy an entire profession and a countries transparent, community based, democratic public schools.

      “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

      The only way those who are corrupt get what they want is by fooling a majority of people and even a 50.1% majority still wins an election.

      And Sun Tzu gave some valuable advice when he said:

      1. To know your Enemy, you must become your Enemy.
      2. Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.
      3. If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.
      4. Know yourself and you will win all battled.
      5. All warfare is based on deception.

  4. HJ

    October 11, 2015 at 22:00


  5. John J. Viall

    October 12, 2015 at 04:48

    Nice work. Only Arne Duncan could miss the simple facts: that there are now 17,000 school resource officers in America’s schools, because problems outside of schools spill into the halls, not the reverse. The Department of Education also noted in 2008-2009, that roughly 800 teachers were assaulted every day on the job. Most of the problems “in” the schools are rooted outside the schools and educators do their best to alleviate them, not exacerbate them.

    • Lloyd Lofthouse

      October 12, 2015 at 08:11

      Correct. Thanks for pointing out what our greedy and power-hungry leaders are deliberately ignoring on their corrupt road to more wealth and power.

  6. michaellangford2012

    October 12, 2015 at 13:49

    Nice work, Lloyd. I wonder if Nixon was influenced by the “Powell Memorandum”?

    Found this in an anti-communist publication called Epoch Times: During the rebellion of the Paris commune (1871–the first communist revolt) they censored the press…took as hostage and later shot the archbishop of Paris, Georges Darboy, who gave sermons to the king. (I’ll try to find the original source for this) My question is, How old do you suppose the archbishop was?

    • Lloyd Lofthouse

      October 12, 2015 at 14:54

      Thank you.

      I wouldn’t put much trust in the Epoch times that’s part of the Falun Gong cult—they have their own media empire outside of China, and it’s about as reliable and trustworthy as the People’s Daily and/or Xinhua—the opposite side of the same coin.

      As for Georges Darboy, the photo in Wiki makes him look old. He lived from 1813 to 1871, so he was 58 when he was shot dead.

      From Wiki: On 4 April 1871, he was arrested by the communards as a hostage and confined in the prison at Mazas, from which he was transferred to La Roquette Prisons on the advance of the army of Versailles. On 24 May he was shot within the prison along with several other prominent hostages. The execution was ordered by Théophile Ferré, who was himself executed by firing squad by the French government after the fall of the Commune.
      Darboy died in the attitude of blessing and uttering words of forgiveness. His body was recovered with difficulty, and, having been embalmed, was buried with imposing ceremony at public expense on 7 June. He was the third archbishop of Paris to die violently between 1848 and 1871.

      Here’s a piece at Bill on the Powell Memo and Nixon is mentioned 5 times. It’s an interesting piece and I think it explains when the private sector changed their tactics and started to fight back against workers rights.

      “And as the 1970s progressed, the problems seemed to be getting worse. Powell wrote in 1971, but even after Nixon swept to a landslide reelection the following year, the legislative tide continued to come in. With Watergate leading to Nixon’s humiliating resignation and a spectacular Democratic victory in 1974, the situation grew even more dire.”

      “The organizational counterattack of business in the 1970s was swift and sweeping — a domestic version of Shock and Awe. The number of corporations with public affairs offices in Washington grew from 100 in 1968 to over 500 in 1978. In 1971, only 175 firms had registered lobbyists in Washington, but by 1982, nearly 2,500 did. The number of corporate PACs increased from under 300 in 1976 to over 1,200 by the middle of 1980.[5] On every dimension of corporate political activity, the numbers reveal a dramatic, rapid mobilization of business resources in the mid-1970s.”

      • michaellangford2012

        October 12, 2015 at 17:14

        Thanks for that. I had come across the Powell Memo via Aaron Swartz’s website, some interesting stuff there if you haven’t visited. The question about the archbishop; far as I know there wasn’t a king in France after the Revolution, I thought the anachronism interesting in that context. The line quoted was from something titled “Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party”.

      • Lloyd Lofthouse

        October 12, 2015 at 17:39

        We always hear the bad things the Communists have done, but what about the good because there is good, at least in China where extreme poverty has been cut by 90% in the last 30 years and in 1949 when the Communists came to power, the average lifespan in China was age 35. Today it is in the 70s, and even by the time Mao died, average lifespan was in the 50s.

        Sure, there was Mao’s great famine 1959-1961, but that was China’s last famine where Chinese died from starvation, and Imperial records indicate that China has had droughts and famines annually in one or more provinces for more than 2,000 years giving China another name: the land of droughts and famines.

        In addition, since the economic reforms after Mao died, China now has a middle class to rival America but in China that middle class is approaching the entire population of the U.S., and we hear often about censorship in China, that is true, but at the same time, anyone that has the money can become a tourist and visit other countries. Last year, more than 100 million Chinese visited another country or more than one. In fact, Chinese now are ranked #1 in the world for spending money as tourists and making up the largest national group discovering the world outside of China.

        In fact, if China wanted to control what people in China learn and think, why are so many Chinese students coming to the U.S. to attend college. The U.S. has a large population of foreign students but Chiense make up the largest ratio of that group, and most of them go home after they graduate, because China’s middle class now lives lifestyles equal to or better than the shrinking U.S. middle class—except for the horrible air pollution found in most Chinese cities.

        Chinese tourist who visit the U.S. often mention how they love the clean air, even in some of our most polluted cities.

        Anyone who knows China’s long history would also know that China’s current government has done more for most if not all of the Chiense people to improve the quality of their life than any other government in China’s history.

        And yes, they do have (leaky) censorship and they do arrest or harass democracy activists who don’t keep their mouths shut in the social media where more than 600 million Chinese are linked to the Internet and have ways to get past the censors if they want to visit and read blocked sites. I know people in China who do this all the time.

  7. Isobel

    November 9, 2015 at 20:08

    So, it’s all the Republican Parties fault, huh?

    • Lloyd Lofthouse

      November 10, 2015 at 08:40

      NO! Some blame belongs to the lazy, ignorant voters who allowed themselves to be fooled through fear/bias to support the legislation and laws that caused this nightmare, and some of those voters are not Republicans—some are independent voters and then there are all those registered Democrats who didn’t vote. They also are responsible for some of the blame for this autocratic America when they decided to not take part in our democracy by NOT voting.


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