DOI: 10.1177/00961442221142059">

From segregation to suspension: The solidification of the contemporary school-prison nexus in Boston, 1963-1985

Document Type


Publication Date



Leadership and Counseling

Publication Title

Journal of Urban History


Current scholarship emphasizes the adoption of “zero-tolerance” policies as the cause of the punitive turn in school discipline. The focus on “zero tolerance,” however, has obscured how and for what offenses schools most commonly issue suspensions, namely non-attendance and “classroom disruption.” Using Boston as case study, this article situates the formation of the contemporary school-prison nexus in the decades following the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education and argues the preservation of educator discretion shaped its structure. Beginning in the decade prior to Boston’s court-ordered desegregation, it analyzes how white Bostonians racialized conceptions of safety and crime to sustain segregation and how that rhetoric shaped the city’s preparations for and implementation of desegregation. It examines how police conduct combined with educators’ disciplining power repurposed the racist logics undergirding segregation to make schools active institutions in spurring carceral expansion and later mass incarceration.

Link to Published Version

DOI: 10.1177/00961442221142059