The Cradle to Grave Pipeline

People often ask “What’s wrong with our children?” Children having children. Children killing children. Children killing others. Children killing themselves. Children roaming streets alone or in gangs all day and night. Children floating through life like driftwood on a beach. Children addicted to tobacco and alcohol and heroin and cocaine and pot, drinking and drugging themselves to death to escape reality. Children running away from home and being thrown away or abused and neglected by parents. Children being locked up in jails with adult criminal mentors or all alone. Children bubbling with rage and crushed by depression.

The answer is that we adults are what’s wrong with our children. Parents letting children raise themselves or be raised by television or the Internet. Children being shaped by peers and gangs and foul mouth rappers instead of parents, grandparents and kin. Children roaming the streets because there’s nobody at home or paying enough attention. Children going to drug houses that are always open instead of to school houses and church houses, mosques and temples that are too often closed. Children seeing adults take and sell drugs and be violent to each other and to them. Adults making promises we don’t keep and preaching what we don’t practice. Adults telling children to control themselves while slapping and spanking. Adults telling children to be honest while lying and cheating in our homes, offices and public life. Adults telling children not to be violent while marketing and glorifying violence and tolerating gun saturated war zones in communities all across our land. Adults telling children to be healthy while selling them junk food and addicting them to smoke and drink and careless sex.

There is a crisis facing our children today. The Children’s Defense Fund has released a report documenting America’s Cradle to Prison Pipeline, the path by which the chances of an individual one day ending up in prison can be predicted based on factors present in his or her childhood, which make that child much more likely to end up incarcerated as an adult. This is an urgent national crisis at the intersection of poverty and race that puts Black boys at a one in three lifetime risk of going to jail, and Latino boys at a one in six lifetime risk of the same fate.

Tens of thousands of children and teens are sucked into the Pipeline each year. Poverty is the largest driving force of the Cradle to Prison Pipeline crisis. In Texas, among all children, 1 in 4 (24.9 percent or 1,548,069) was poor. A baby is born poor every five minutes in the state:

  • A Black baby is born poor every 32 minutes.
  • A Latino baby is born poor every 7 minutes.
  • A White, non-Latino baby is born poor every 33 minutes.
  • An Asian baby is born poor every 9 hours.
  • An American Indian/Alaska Native baby is born poor every 20 hours.

Other factors that significantly impact the odds of a child entering the Cradle to Prison Pipeline include lack of early childhood education, poor education received later, disadvantaged health care, experienced violence, and simply being a person of color.

It’s time for America to become America. The Cradle to Prison Pipeline crisis can be reduced to one simple fact: The United States of America is not a level playing field for all children and our nation does not value and protect all children’s lives equally. As parents, adults, citizens and leaders we must examine ourselves regularly to determine whether we are contributing to the crisis our children face or to the solutions they urgently need. And if we are not a part of the solution, we are a part of the problem and need to do better. Before we can pull up the moral weeds of violence, materialism and greed in our society and world that are strangling so many of our children, we must pull up the moral weeds in our own homes, backyards, neighborhoods, institutions and public policies.

You can download the entire report HERE.

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