The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Ed Shelleby 202-662-3602
Evan Holland 310-695-8324

Children's Defense Fund, National Leaders Convene to Address America's Cradle to Prison Pipeline

Heads of NAACP, NCLR, U.S. Conference of Mayors, PolicyLink, and Nearly 200 Young Leaders Meet in Sacramento


Today, the Children's Defense Fund (CDF) and several co-conveners concluded their two-day California/National Cradle to Prison Pipeline
Summit in Sacramento, California. The more than 500 attendees at the
summit shared promising approaches and developed community action plans
to stop the funneling of thousands of children down a pipeline to

"In America, a Black boy born in 2001 has a 1 in 3 chance of
going to prison in his lifetime, and a Latino boy a 1 in 6 chance, and
yet we spend nearly three times as much on every prisoner as we do per
public school pupil,"
said CDF President Marian Wright Edelman. "We
gathered in California-which houses the largest prison system in the
United States, incarcerating more than one of every nine prisoners in
America-to share solutions and strategies for rerouting children on a
path to healthy adulthoods and reordering our priorities to save
taxpayer dollars. We must mount a concerted national effort to
dismantle the prison pipeline by eliminating its root causes through
implementation of the promising approaches articulated at the summit."

Co-conveners of the summit included the the NAACP, NCLR, U.S.
Conference of Mayors and PolicyLink, and noted speakers included:
Angela Glover Blackwell, founder and CEO of PolicyLink; Ben Jealous,
president and CEO of the NAACP; the Honorable Kevin Johnson, Mayor of
Sacramento, California; and Jurnee Smollett, actor.

"As a nation, we can ensure that all children reach their
full potential. We must use our vast knowledge about what works to
dismantle the cradle to prison pipeline which hurts so many of our
said Angela Glover Blackwell, Founder and CEO of PolicyLink. "Instead
of prison, our children deserve good schools, healthy and safe
communities, and opportunities to thrive. We have a blue print for
action. We must act to save our children."

Summit participants discussed the role of race and poverty in the
pipeline to prison, the importance of reweaving community relationships
and surrounding children and youths with the care and services they
need to succeed. The Summit also highlighted promising approaches to
addressing these challenges.

In September 2007, the Children's Defense Fund facilitated a
national summit in Washington, D.C., to focus attention on the Pipeline
and since then has gathered leaders across the country to plan for
action. The California/National Summit showcased strategies that work
in dismantling the pipeline to prison and engaged a broad range of
people in the search for solutions: policy experts, elected officials
and celebrities involved in education, child welfare, community
revitalization, health and mental health and juvenile justice.

Some 200 youths led and participated in the deliberations of the
first day to help define their own involvement in efforts to dismantle
the prison pipeline. During interactive sessions, they shared
challenges and discussed their personal experiences in the pipeline,
and the interventions that changed their lives. Their report and
recommendations were presented to the entire summit.

"The pipeline to prison is not an act of God; it has been created by our human political choices," said Edelman. "We
know what to do-and now we must call upon our leaders to create and
implement policies that will ensure every child a level playing field
in life so that we dismantle the pipeline to prison and improve the
lives of our children and all Americans."

CDF's Cradle to Prison Pipeline Campaign addresses the
urgent national crisis at the intersection of poverty and race that
puts Black boys born in 2001 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. The goal of the campaign is to reduce detention and incarceration
by increasing preventive supports and services children need, such as
access to quality early childhood development and education services
and accessible, comprehensive health and mental health coverage.

In California alone:

  • 1.6 million children were poor in 2007.
  • In 2007, 60% of White, 87% of Black, and 89% of Latino public school fourth graders could not read at grade level.
  • In 2007, there were more than 600 juvenile arrests each day.
  • In 2005, California lead the nation in number of children or teens (474) who died of firearm injuries.

For more information on CDF's Cradle to Prison Pipeline Campaign, visit

The Children's Defense Fund (CDF) is a non-profit child advocacy organization that has worked relentlessly for 35 years to ensure a level playing field for all children. We champion policies and programs that lift children out of poverty; protect them from abuse and neglect; and ensure their access to health care, quality education, and a moral and spiritual foundation.