A project by journalism students in the convergence newsroom at Roosevelt University.

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Curing the “cradle to prison” pipeline

Nancy Michaels dedicated the last year to save children from being incarcerated instead of being educated. The Mansfield Institute for Social Justice and Transformation, which Michaels helps oversee, is a two-in-one program at Roosevelt University that hopes to provide programming for Social Justice awareness and collaboration and transformation service learning implemented throughout Roosevelt. Key issues of the mission include education, poverty, violence, activism and policy change.

“We are striving to be the community catalyst in education,” said Michaels the assistant director of the Mansfield Institute. “The outreach for the summit, work is spread out, and very broad.”
 Heather Dalmage, the director of the Mansfield Institute, sent Michaels to a conference spotlighting a woman incarceration campaign.
“After the campaign it was clear that this is what we need to be working on,” said Michaels.
The Cradle to College Pipeline Summit was a two-day experience held in fall 2010. Community organizations gathered at Roosevelt in hopes of dismantling what has widely become known as the “Prison Pipeline”. More than 420 people, students, faculty and youth from across the city, attended the event.
On the conference’s second day, youths led panels, to discuss issues that mattered the most to them.  
“Youth were essential in this process,” said Michaels, “They’re the experts, they’re living it.”
The Pipeline advisory board, made up of 22 faculty and administrators, brainstormed topics for sessions.
“This is a chance to highlight organizations doing incredible work, and make them experts,” said Michaels.
            “The main objective is to build an action plan that switches the current trajectory of a system that funnels poor and minority youth from the cradle to prison, to a trajectory that prepares children for college and a successful adulthood,” said Dalmage. But their work after the summit is not done.
“Our true goals are those that will happen well after the summit,” said Dalmage, “Our goal is to keep social justice as the central theme of University,” said Dalmage.
“It costs the state of Illinois $83,000 a year to incarcerate a child, but it costs only 10 percent of that to educate a student. One issue kids brought up was how school is starting to have a similar environment to that of prison.”
“Things happen in school that lead to success rather than prison,” said Nona Burney one of the moderators of the summit and an associate professor of secondary education at Roosevelt,
“We need our children to set goals towards success. They need to move along without being interrupted by the negative.”
 By Stephanie Corcilius
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