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For the Children?

Protecting Innocence in a Carceral State

2016
Author:

Erica R. Meiners

For the Children?

Centering on the child in the struggle to dismantle America’s carceral state

Placing the child at the heart of the targeted criminalization debate, Erica R. Meiners considers how perceptions of innocence, the safe child, and the future operate in service of the prison industrial complex. Meiners examines the school-to-prison pipeline and the broader prison industrial complex in the U.S., engaging fresh questions in the struggle to build sustainable and flourishing worlds without prisons.

In her brilliant and jarring analysis, Erica Meiners shatters the commonsensical narrative that we need to increasingly incarcerate in order to protect innocent children, or more insidiously, that the protection of (some) children should guide social movements. For the Children? reveals the limits and contradictions of prevailing organizational frameworks and should be required reading for anyone working toward justice.

Kevin Kumashiro, author of Bad Teacher! How Blaming Teachers Distorts the Bigger Picture

“Childhood has never been available to all.” In her opening chapter of For the Children?, Erica R. Meiners stakes the claim that childhood is a racial category often unavailable to communities of color. According to Meiners, this is glaringly evident in the U.S. criminal justice system, where the differentiation between child and adult often equates to access to stark disparities. And what is constructed as child protection often does not benefit many young people or their communities. Placing the child at the heart of the targeted criminalization debate, For the Children? considers how perceptions of innocence, the safe child, and the future operate in service of the prison industrial complex.

The United States has the largest prison population in the world, with incarceration and policing being key economic tools to maintain white supremacist ideologies. Meiners examines the school-to-prison pipeline and the broader prison industrial complex in the United States, arguing that unpacking child protection is vital to reducing the nation’s reliance on its criminal justice system as well as building authentic modes of public safety. Rethinking the meanings and beliefs attached to the child represent a significant and intimate thread of the work to dismantle facets of the U.S. carceral state.

Taking an interdisciplinary approach and building from a scholarly and activist platform, For the Children? engages fresh questions in the struggle to build sustainable and flourishing worlds without prisons.

For the Children?

Erica R. Meiners is professor of education and women’s and gender studies at Northeastern Illinois University. She is author of several books including Right to Be Hostile: Schools, Prisons, and the Making of Public Enemies and coauthor of Flaunt It! Queers Organizing for Public Education and Justice.

For the Children?

In her brilliant and jarring analysis, Erica Meiners shatters the commonsensical narrative that we need to increasingly incarcerate in order to protect innocent children, or more insidiously, that the protection of (some) children should guide social movements. For the Children? reveals the limits and contradictions of prevailing organizational frameworks and should be required reading for anyone working toward justice.

Kevin Kumashiro, author of Bad Teacher! How Blaming Teachers Distorts the Bigger Picture

One of our most important scholar/activists, Erica Meiners always challenges us to engage critically with the complex and sometimes surprising ideological strategies that bolster the expanding carceral state. For the Children? reveals how both prison advocates and prison abolitionists tend to rely on conventional notions of childhood and innocence. It should be read not only by movement builders but by all who believe that a world without prisons is possible.

Angela Y. Davis, University of California, Santa Cruz

For the Children?

Contents
Introduction
Part I. Childhoods
1. Magical Age
2. The Trouble with the Child in the Carceral State
Part II. Schools and Prisons
3. Beyond Reform: The Architecture of Prison and School Closure
4. Restorative Justice Is Not Enough
Part III. Adulthoods
5. Life and Death: Reentry after Incarceration
6. Registering Sex, Rethinking Safety
IV. After and Now
7. Not This: Building Present Futures
Acknowledgments
Notes
Bibliography
Index