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Boynton Students Examine Incarceration

What are the effects of mass incarceration on society, especially children?

That’s the question Boynton Middle School’s sixth grade Wind Team recently explored in a unit centered around the anchor text “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness,” by Michelle Alexander.

Groups of students examined various aspects of mass incarceration and how they impact both the jailed and the greater society, including young people. The unit concluded January 18 with a day of displays and presentations in the school’s library, attended by other students, families, and members of the community.

Students used sources like state and federal laws, interviews, media reports, and local policies like the Ithaca Plan – the City of Ithaca’s public health and safety approach to drugs and drug policy – to inform their work. They were then asked to develop informed opinions on a variety of topics related to incarceration.

Issues examined include how incarceration affects the economy; the possible impact of Ithaca Plan proposals including safe injection sites; “ban the box” legislation; differences between jail and prison, as well as differences between American and foreign prisons; the difficulties offenders have in finding a job or housing after their release; how the legalization of marijuana may affect mass incarceration and those currently imprisoned on marijuana-related charges; whether police should be present in Ithaca schools; how race relates to arrest rates; what happens when children commit crimes; how children are affected by an incarcerated parent; and why people re-offend after their release from jail or prison.

“This unit has been unique as it allowed the students to look at a national and local issue from the perspectives of social justice, human rights, the lives of those incarcerated, and the lives of those who are dedicated to keeping us safe every day,” said Wind Team teacher Valerie Evans.

As part of the experience, the students’ findings will be presented to local government and law enforcement leaders.

The unit was made possible with funding from the Park Foundation and TST BOCES.


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Ithaca City School District
Dr. Luvelle Brown, Superintendent
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Ithaca, NY 14850
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