Criminal Law and Justice

The Criminalization of Black Girls

August 17, 2020  • Criminal Justice Reform Initiative

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Shades of Freedom, from The Aspen Institute Criminal Justice Reform Initiative, is a new podcast amplifying and uplifting promising efforts aimed at reducing mass incarceration, and looking at the ecosystem of related inequalities that surrounds and perpetuates incarceration.

Shades of Freedom logoThis podcast will feature people working on changing the justice system, from policymakers to activists, and from returning citizens to systems leaders. Discussions will be wide-ranging, on the school-to-confinement pipeline, to alternatives to incarceration, to policing, to sentencing, to prosecutorial reform, to incarceration, to reentry — and how these topics intersect with other community systems (such as education, health, housing and more). Today’s world seeks more than reform of the justice system; it demands transformation, and guests on Shades of Freedom will offer insights on the challenges and solutions in front of us.

The podcast can be found on all the major platforms, including Apple, Google, and Spotify. You can also listen from the from the series home page or listen to the first episode at the top of this page.

The Shades of Freedom podcast, hosted by Dr. Douglas E. Wood, Director of the Criminal Justice Reform Initiative, is named after and inspired by the book Shades of Freedom: Racial Politics and Presumptions of the American Legal Process, by Judge A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr.

The episodes will look at different aspects of the criminal justice continuum, and the first episode examines the role that school policies and practices can play for Black girls in creating an entrée to the justice system.

Episode One: The Criminalization of Black Girls

One piece of dismantling and rebuilding the justice system starts with our schools, which, unfortunately can become an onramp to the criminal justice system for Black girls, who in increasing numbers are subject to criminalization.  How did we end up with schools that are based in fear, rather than love, and how is that leading towards the adultification and criminalization of Black girls in particular?

Dr. Monique Morries

Dr. Monique Morris

Dr. Monique Morris joins this episode to look into these questions, as well as the paths forward to a better future. Dr. Morris is an award-winning writer, social justice scholar, professor, founder of National Black Women’s Justice Institute, the executive director of Grantmakers for Girls of Color. She is also the author of several books, including Pushout, which PBS recently adapted into a documentary of the same name.

This episode explores the ideas in Pushout, and the profound injustice black girls face in our schools and our country. Topics addressed include:

  • How girls are policed through school-level policies
  • How schools can create equitable policies that serve students instead of punishing them
  • How schools can provide the tools to Black girls so that they can carve out their own identity in a world that insists they become something else
  • How we can shift from an often deficit-based to an asset-based consciousness regarding Black girls

Transcript available here.