How can we prevent young black males who suffer from learning differences from being incarcerated?

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It is well known in the United States that race, education, and socioeconomic status have a lot of causation when it comes to incarceration. We, the United States, spend millions of dollars on putting people in jail. If we could prevent the incarceration of some of those people, we could invest that money in the education system. In order to fully understand the severity of this, I believe it is crucial for you to see the statistics and the odds these young black males with learning differences experience.

So, if you are a young black male from a low-income family with a learning difference, the odds are definitely against you. My goal with this project is to beat these statistics and prevent incarceration for these young black males with learning differences.

Image #1:  “Teachers are preparing in-person and virtual classrooms to keep students safe and engaged.” The New York Times, Accessed 13 April, 2021.
Image #2: “Alcatraz Prison.” Daily Forest, Accessed 13 April, 2021.

My Solution:

After talking with a local social worker and my dean(who doubles as my GOA Site director and who has lots of experience with special education), I came to the realization that there is no one course of action that will solve this problem, but many.

The local social worker I spoke to told me that many people are unaware of the symptoms of learning differences and that one of the most important things we could do is to make society more aware of learning differences and their symptoms in order to treat them earlier. The social worker told me that the earlier you can start treating the learning difference, the less harmful the learning difference will be in the future. From this information, I got the idea of making a pamphlet that would be handed out to parents from school that educates them on the symptoms and signs that they should look out for.

My discussion with my dean led me to think some of the most important things we could do is to increase funding for public schools in order to keep classes like art, music, and P.E. in the school curriculum and to increase the amount of learning support that these students receive. My dean shared that students with learning differences often thrive in classes like art, music, and P.E. In Erik Erikson’s industry vs. inferiority stage, which occurs between ages 6 and 12, children either start to feel confident and industrious, or they start to feel inferior to their peers. For students who don’t perform well in other academic classes, art, music, and P.E. can be a main source of confidence for them. Keeping these classes in the school curriculum will likely lead to many more students feeling industrious, which will hopefully keep more students in school. 

In addition, my dean shared with me that his daughter, who goes to public school, shares her learning support teacher with 200 other students, and her learning support teacher doubles as her college counselor. Learning support teachers can be crucial to helping students with learning differences perform their best. But, it is unfair to believe that one teacher can assist 200 students and help each one thrive in school. In order to prevent students with learning differences from dropping out of school, we need to increase funding for more learning support teachers.

My plan is to write to my state representatives to discuss funding for classes like art, P.E., and music, to discuss funding for more learning support teachers, and to make a pamphlet that I can give to local teachers to give to parents.


Vote on what you think would be the best solution to this problem:

Last note:

Throughout this project, I have found it hard not to think about the people who have already been incarcerated, who have learning differences, who are black, who come from impoverished communities. I am not saying that they are not guilty of the crimes they committed, but that I wish we could’ve prevented them from committing that crime. But, since we can’t go back in time, what do you think the best way to help the people who have already been incarcerated would be? Educate them now? Help them find a job? Please let me know in the comments.

My bibliography:



  1. Hey Maddy! This is such an awesome initiative. I really respect your level of dedication, and how you want to spend your career solving this problem. In your survey, I voted for option B. Obviously, I think all your proposed solutions would be beneficial, but I chose this one because my impression is that it would be the most effective for the individuals to have internal motivation to continue on with school. It’s important that they feel accomplished and capable, because no one wants to stay in school if they feel behind and incapable. I think that including these other courses during developmental periods, and making school enjoyable (to the greatest degree that it can be enjoyable haha) is extremely important. Again, congratulations on a great project, and I look forward to hearing about where you take this.

  2. In response to your ending question, I think the primary action would need immense prison reform. As of right now, the US prison system is tailored to result in repeat offenders. I think that there should be more opportunities to increase education as well as more mental health treatment in prison. Additionally, because of the intense stigma surrounding those who went to prison, it is extremely difficult for people to continue their lives after leaving prison, so that would be the next step.

  3. Hey Maddy! Great project, I love that you brought up multiple ways in which we can help this community. I voted for Option B in your google form, as when we look at it as a whole, many students have different learning methods, they can be visual, they can prefer lectures, while others do not enjoy school at all and need a completely different learning system to help them. I really enjoyed going through your project and it makes me sad to think of this school to prison pipeline, hopefully this will change in the near future.

  4. Hey Maddy! I loved your project, it was really insightful and well thought out. In regards to your google form, I chose option B. While reading your page, I took note of certain things, such as how “students with learning differences often thrive in classes like art, music, and P.E’” and that these classes can be a source of confidence for them. I feel as though option B would give the opportunity for those kids to find their interest and succeed in something they are truly satisfied in. Just like you stated, it’s important to fix the problem by finding the root of it, which in this case is the access to education. The individuals who end up in prison aren’t at fault, the system is what truly needs to be changed. Great job on your project!

  5. Hi Maddy this is a great project! I think in response to your posed question the best solution would be to put more funding into the school systems to help students with specific learning needs. I think if these kids are given the amount of attention and support they need to thrive would be immensely helpful. I also think there needs to be more intensive training in order to become a police officer and with that training, officers should be thought how to properly deal with someone struggling with a mental illness. So instead of escalating a situation to the point where someone is arrested, they are actually diffusing the situation to the point where the person can be let off with a warning and directed to mental health resources.

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