Be the Solution — Not the Problem!

22 Mar

I read an article by Emma Brown in the Washington Post last week   The article caught my eye because the subject of the article, Nancy Hanks, mentions the ‘School-to-Prison’ pipeline.  The school-to-prison pipeline is a term used to describe the consequence of practices implemented by educational institutions, specifically zero tolerance policies and the use of police in schools.  The result is the increasing patterns of contact students have with the juvenile and adult criminal justice systems.  As media coverage of youth violence and mass incarceration has grown, the term is often a hot topic in discussions surrounding educational disciplinary policies.

As I read the speech by Ms. Hanks, a top administrator for the Madison, Wisconsin school system, I found commonalities with the WMF Re-Entry Conference. Ms. Hanks asks her audience to consider alternative solutions to students’ bad behavior.  She questions whether 4-5 year old pre-school children should be suspended or expelled for disrupting the learning environment.

Ms. Hanks even questions her past decisions as a Principal, one in particular where she expelled a middle school student for bringing his BB gun to school.  By chance, she came face-to-face with the young man years later and fortunately, he had not gotten swept into the pipeline.  She still felt the guilt of being part of the problem rather than part of the solution.  The overcrowding in our prisons is largely due to the ‘war on drugs’ in which we treat addiction as a crime.  We are just beginning to see laws changing to provide rehabilitation treatment for drug addicts instead of prison.  Alternative solutions should be sought for other non-violent crimes.

A strong message in Ms. Hanks speech was something we can all try to apply to our daily lives:  Separate the Person from the Act.  That is exactly what happens during the WMF conference.  The many volunteer organizations and individual volunteers look at the women attending the conference without seeing their crimes.  The women are viewed as individuals who need a little help, some guidance and training.  They will get a second chance; they will need to be able to find a place to live, get and keep a job, have healthy relationships with their families, and manage their money.  Some of them haven’t done any of this in a long timeOneonOneWeb; some of them may have never done it successfully.

And when the women do get out of prison, I hope they will encounter people who can separate them from their prior acts—people who will take a chance on them, give them a break, hire them, show them  kindness and respect.   After all, they have paid their debts to society for their past crimes.  Re-entering their communities should be a fresh start.

You can help by donating to the WMF Conference! !  Go to





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