Top-Down Discipline: The Effects of Carceral Ideology on Low-Income and Racial Minority Students

To what extent does carceral ideology—an orientation toward punitive practices—act as a structural barrier to reducing persistent educational inequalities for Black students?

Carceral ideology, or the propensity to solve problems through surveillance, coercion, and confinement, is a belief system that views societal problems as individual and familial failures that require correction. This ideology situates Black students as inherently deviant, creating the rationale and tools for their disparate disciplinary treatment, and resulting in higher school suspension rates than their White peers. The accumulation of carceral practices can alter the education, beliefs, and identities of Black students in ways that inhibit their successful transition to college, the workplace, and other environments inhabited by the White middle- and upper-classes. With this award, Brodnax aims to measure the prevalence of carceral ideology in schools, describe the variation in carceral ideology across school types, and identify carceral mechanisms that shape disciplinary and academic outcomes so that they might eventually be removed. Brodnax will expand her skills in qualitative methods and youth development by working with her mentor Carla Shedd, Associate Professor of Sociology at Georgetown University. Pamela Herd, Professor of Public Policy at Georgetown University, will provide mentorship on policy informed sociological frameworks.