Exploring the “School-to-Prison” Pipeline: How School Suspensions Influence Incarceration During Young Adulthood

Paul Hemez
Thomas Mowen, Bowling Green State University

The “school-to-prison pipeline” references a process in which youth who experience punitive punishment in school are increasingly enmeshed within the criminal justice system. While this metaphor is commonly accepted, few studies have examined the extent to which exclusionary school discipline significantly alters pathways towards incarceration as youth transition into young adulthood. Applying a life-course perspective and leveraging 15 waves of data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997, this study examines how school suspensions influence odds of imprisonment during young adulthood. Mixed-effects longitudinal models demonstrate that receiving a suspension increases the odds of incarceration, even after accounting for key covariates including levels of criminal offending. However, results show that repeated suspensions do not appear to confer additional risk of incarceration. Results carry implications for the ways in which school punishment impacts youths’ life-course.

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 Presented in Session 158. Transition to Adulthood Among Vulnerable Youth