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‘A Pipeline Straight to Jail’

‘A Pipeline Straight to Jail’

Chris Hedges

The defeat of the Harvard University debate team by a team from the Eastern New York Correctional Facility in the Catskills elucidates a truth known intimately by those of us who teach in prisons: that the failure of the American educational system to offer opportunities to the poor and the government’s abandonment of families and children living in blighted communities condemn millions of boys and girls, often of color, to a life of suffering, misery and early death.


We are fortunate we have a voice as articulate and experienced as Chris Hedges. This essay is only one of very many that reaches to the heart of many issues. This one is specifically on black lives but is about us all in a larger sense.

The ability of people of color to achieve education and find purpose in our society is often denied by for-profit education and costs out of reach for many, or cut short or directed “straight to jail” by police and agenda of confrontation. Instant obedience is demanded and enforced with instant brutality regardless the sex, age or threat of any individual that does not “comply” instantly to abusive orders.

I woke this morning thinking about Tamir Rice, 12 years old, who was playing with a toy gun in a park, alone, no other people near, when police shot and killed him. There was no threat to anyone until police drove right up within feet and within two seconds shot and killed Tamir - that child was deprived of life and education, a future, by organized, ignorant, police violence, blind to his life and safety. Of course apologists who “have experience”, an FBI agent and a prosecutor, both “law enforcement” aparatchicks, have pronounced the killing of a 12 year old child “justified” - a despicable propaganda distortion and creation to deny Tamir justice thru lies and deception. the purpose of these creatures is to exonerate police criminal incompetance and execution of Tamir; to derail reform and change. The police failed to apply even basic norms of understanding what and who they were “dealing with” and intentionally created Tamirs killing with their agression. Apologies for the diversion from topic…

Education of our sons and daughters, all who wish it, should be a right and responsibility of society/government, not only the sons and daughters of the wealthy and well-connected, not for-profit hedge-fund scams, and available to all without abusive interest costs.


Very nice writing, Chris. You paint a picture with your narrative that brings both sorrow and anger to my heart. As technology in the forms of computers and robots continues to render human labor less necessary the training component of public “education” should slip away. In its stead should be built a house of true learning of things enriching to the soul. The discussion is building that schools are cheaper than prisons. As for the employment opportunities of the future, they will have to be increasing developed by the public sector, as the private sector will favor technology every time.


Why is commondreams not running all of Hedges’ articles? They didn’t run a couple of his mos.t recent ones. One of them Hedges was critical of Bernie Sanders.

It’s not that I disagree with your points and criticism but it does sound as if you think the public schools haven’t let down poor kids for generations. Suggest you take a look at Jonathan Kozol’s books, especially Savage Inequalities which makes very clear that the problem of educational standards in the USA have been abysmal for a long time. Actually, you could go to Upton Sinclair and read The Goose Step for a better idea on how long this has been going on.
I see the problem of the privatization as merely a continuation whilst siphoning public funds.


[quote=“Boris Franklin (via Chris Hedges)”]"But when you are poor in America, everything conspires to make sure you remain poor. [emph. added] …

"There is a stigma that comes with being poor. If you are poor you are bad. You are worthless. You are ridiculed. You are picked on.

Markets are built on this. This is how you can sell a kid from the inner city a pair of $200 sneakers. He is buying his identity. He is buying his self-esteem. And that’s why poor people hustle.

That’s why I started hustling [drugs], to buy things. The gratification is immediate. You wear that stuff and it is like you are magically not poor anymore. It is a trigger to go back to selling drugs.

I remember when I was struggling. I had grits one night for dinner because that was all that was in the cabinet. I panicked. By the next day I decided I would do something criminal to change my situation.

“What’s the best that can happen to you, even if you don’t go to jail? Check out bags at Wal-Mart? A warehouse job?

That’s as far as you can go in this world if you are poor. The only education the poor are given is one where they get to a place where they learn enough to take orders. They are taught to remember what is said. They are taught to repeat the instructions. There is no thinking involved.

We are not taught to think. We are educated just enough to occupy the lowest rung on the social ladder.”[/quote]

This is so painfully true that it should appear on TV every hour as a public-service announcement, and have skywriters writing it in Really Big Letters all day every day over every large city in the US.

I speak from having experienced a tiny bit of it, but I’m nominally White and do well when given an IQ test, so there was a small door left open for me that isn’t ever left open for the Boris Franklins of the USA.


I entirely agree 4thefuture. Public education generally has been dumbed-down for decades and underfunded in many places, notably “poor” places. Where property taxes fund public education such as NY, “rich” property-tax districts enjoy more funding (not necessarily better education, but more funding) while “poor” districts (in property assessments) struggle and their children are short-changed. (Wehere the hell is my spell-check?)

There have been demands to change the way NY funds public ed from unequal property-tax based to income and a basic education guaranteed (at least in funding) for all districts. that of course is opposed by the well-off and lying SOB’s in Albany, notably the DINO in chief, Andy Cuomo! Real feform was sabotaged and NY sold “relief” rather than “reform” - par for Albany dysfunction. NY politicians and mechanisms consistantly serve the wealthy not the public!

I believe public ed in the US generally has been pathetic and shallow. A high school graduate winds-up with basically an eighth-grade ed and so on upwards, except for higher ed for the sons and daughters of the wealthy who can buy a good education in todays for-profit education scams. Education for some and servitude for the 99%. Just my opinion…


Because it’s not always about Bernie, Hillary and Jill or whatever you think it should be. And, the pipeline to prison is most often a local or regional issue(s). Do you think just voting for a reasonably sane person would change the present trajectory, anyway? Whoever owns the police depts. and courts usually owns " the plantation we live on ", too. Only about 10-12% of the $$$ for schools and state prisons comes from the Federal gov’t, btw. And, for my 2 cents, the Federal gov’t has proven itself to be a cesspool of corruption, and worse, in these matters. Incarceration Nation is not a defect but a working, white paper drawn up by the PTB. Emphasis on the white, there. Look no further than the NRA and gun manufacturers for proof of how out of whack this whole scenario is. Great article by Mr. Hedges. here.

Chris Hedges writes some very important and informative pieces. There are other news/opinion sites where Bernie is anathema to the “real left”, where he is routinely castigated for all manner of duplicity, failures and original sin. The comment-culture of confrontation on those sites is ripe but Chris gets front-page coverage. The arguments employed by the “real left” to bash Bernie (even given his warts in one area or another) are particularly infuriating and usually shallow, arrogant, idiotic drivel or know-it-all contempt for others…Sanders brings-out some strong feelings and speculation on his integrity even from Chris Hedges.

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Here in Canada ,as it is in the United States of America , our poorest people are those of the First Nations people.

I think it instructive to compare how our education system approached educating those peoples as opposed to the system setup to educate the whites.

The residential schools by design were structured to provide only the most rudimentary education. Policy papers concluded that a person of the First Nations could only expect to be a servant or worker for a wealthier white.

Consequently they were taught how to sew, or prepare a white man’s dinner or build a home for a white man and little else.

Here in Canada there also more first Nations peoples in prison than the population size warrants. Mr Hedges makes it clear why this the case.


Indeed it was a good article but I wasn’t commenting on its content. I was wondering about Commondreams’ editorial control over selectively distributing commentary by columnists that are generally core to the message but on occasion must challenge the tactical agenda of Commondreams (i.e. the election of Sanders). I don’t know if it is disingenuous or not… I suppose any publisher is allowed its editorial control.
Hedges was my primary reason for stopping by on this site but it isn’t any extra effort to head on to Truthdig. That being said Commondreams provides a valuable service and I support it financially.

Read only if you aren’t allergic to reality

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White collar thieves and war criminals run the U.S. Empire and they care not who suffers only who profits. 60% of the prison population in the U.S. is non-white, a proportion that in itself is criminal and is the new Jim Crow. However the fastest growing minority are poor whites and our criminal masters are building a profitable slave labor prison industrial complex for all. Isn’t it wonderful that we will will have our prisons where “acculturated to poverty” the prison scenario will be just like home?

The insane idea that the worst people will do the best for most still makes many believe that capitalism can be reformed. Racism and classism are endemic to capitalism. Destroy the capitalist system or be prepared for prison being the best scenario for many of an increasing impoverished majority. Capitalism has reached a dead end and racism is no longer enough. Poor people are being indiscriminately exploited by the global masters of the new world order no matter where in the world they be. The globalization of poverty rules.

Education as a solution? Education should teach people how to analyze, reach conclusions and act on the results. Almost all education now is about conforming and test taking. Colleges now put people in debt for life and have become business academies with liberal arts non-existent, worthless superficial overviews or, even worse, vehicles of propaganda. Worst of all an increasing number of graduates can’t find work.

Little wonder about the “defeat of the Harvard University debate team by a team from the Eastern New York Correctional Facility in the Catskills” where the many prison intellectuals read everything constantly, retain it, and can relate it to whatever is discussed.


With appropriate technology used for the benefit of all, as in the first option of Laurie Penny’s article, every citizen would have a living stipend and everyone would have the free time to create, to learn, to parent, to have fun.

With an intelligent, instead of a stupid animal greed based approach, the things that make life worth living may not be beyond the public’s grasp.

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Everybody is your god when they agree with you. Adopting Mr. Hedges and Counterpunch for your repeated attacks and pie-in-the-sky alternatives against Sen. Sanders. Today on OPB ( Oregon Public Broadcasting ), the station interviewed the young black women who podcasted an interview with Hillary, very recently. They dismissed interviewing Bernie and talking his policies, opting for " Smilen Joe " Biden and HillBillary, instead. It was a fluffer’s paradise for the Clintonistas and Obamabots, and shows the BLM bandwagon, yet again, dishing Sen. Sanders and being more than comfortable with the DLC politics-and policies-as usual scenario. Talk about 2 young, clueless women more worried about someone’s hair style or choice in whiskeys than policy and politics. With all that is at stake in the next 4-8 years concerning the myriad issues facing the country, we get commenters and podcasters with the shallowness ( the litmus test ) of the Platte River. It’s a " mile wide and a foot deep ", you know. But, it is easy to drink from and cross. So, there’s that, too. But maybe you, like those 2 podcasters, like dirty and polluted water with your whiskey.

Also recommended is Jonathan Kozol’s very first book, which came out back in the late 1960’s, titled “Death at an Early Age”. This particular book, which is probably long out of print, is a real indictment of Boston’s public school system, how a patronage/politics/opportunism-ridden, all-white, ham-handed School Committee deliberately and knowingly kept Boston’s public schools segregated, and manipulated a byzantine system to create a dual school system; one for white students and one for non-white students. As a result of the school Committee’s ham-handed policies, both white and non-white Boston School students received (and still receive) a lousy education that prepares them for the road to nowhere.

Same in Zuidafrika, mutatis mutandis.

What amazes me is how highly intelligent people pretend that all that matters is how they should vote on principle. Meanwhile they are fully aware that by not supporting Bernie the most progressive of the major candidates that they then enable either Hillary or a republican to win the White House. They know that a vote for Stein will be a symbolic vote as she has no chance of winning. Meanwhile during the nomination race that Stein isn’t in they continue to trash Bernie and therefore only help Hillary. What principle is that I wonder?

It is for that last part most especially that they lose respect. Since Stein is not competing in the nomination race why do they continue sabotaging Bernie? They always deny that they help Hillary but they know that is what is happening. Sometimes people can’t admit when they are wrong. Maybe they will just complain later when Hillary is the one deciding foreign policy that the game is rigged?

What will they say if Hillary wins the nomination? Will they say that they had nothing to do with that? Will those two opportunist women who exploited a sad situation to neutralize Bernie’s long years of support for civil rights in favor of making a connection with Hillary. Where is Hillary’s lack of a civil rights record mentioned? None of the Bernie bashers ever say. What about Hillary’s foreign policy which is far, far worse than Bernie’s on all counts.

Sometimes it isn’t hard to feel like Americans will once again be losers. We like the Native Americans of the past seem unable to come together to help ourselves but instead remain divided.

We won’t even support the more progressive candidate! How bizarre is that? So who will we support as progressives if we won’t support a progressive candidate? You just have wonder what is in these peoples’s mind that they trash the progressive and help the oligarchic status quo. It isn’t pretend. They sabotage their own. It isn’t only about foreign policy. I am waiting for Hedges to talk about helping the working class and the poor after Hillary wins the nomination. At that point he becomes a true liberal hypocrite and … a liar.

I guess Hillary and Trump are perfect… they welcome the support of so many progressives… on principle, if nothing else.

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