Two Stories of a Philadelphia School’s Transformation

from Jeff Deeney. First, in July 2013: Last year when American Paradigm Schools took over Philadelphia's infamous, failing John Paul Jones Middle School, they did something a lot of people would find inconceivable. The school was known as "Jones Jail" for its reputation of violence and disorder, and because the building physically resembled a youth correctional facility. Situated in the Kensington section of the city, it drew students from the heart of a desperately poor hub of injection drug … [Read more...]

“Another Mom Thrown in Jail for Letting Kids Play in Park”: Reason

I know I say this all the time, but what really gets to me is the tone of contempt. There's pride in the police chief's condescending dehumanization. Like, he's so pleased that he came up with this super clever way to put down a woman trying to get help for her family. Lenore Skenazy agrees: Ashley, Richardson, a mom of four who went to a food bank while her kids, ages 6-8, played at the park for more than two hours, was arrested and jailed in Winter Haven, Florida. While the park day sounds … [Read more...]

“Get Out of Jail, Inc.”

The New Yorker: On a cold November afternoon, Harriet Cleveland, a forty-nine-year-old mother of three, waved me over from the steps of her pink cottage in Montgomery, Alabama. She was off to her part-time job as a custodian at a local day-care center, looking practical but confectionary: pink lipstick, a pastel yellow-and-pink tunic, and dangly pink earrings. We’d need to start walking soon, she explained. The job, which paid seven dollars and twenty-five cents an hour, was the only one she’d b … [Read more...]

“Making the Welfare State Less Intrusive”

some thoughts from Jesse Walker: ...The sorts of welfare-reform tinkering that interest me most are the ones that cashify and combine programs. By cashify, I mean taking a subsidy with strings attached—food stamps, Section 8 housing vouchers, anything like that—and instead just sending money to the people who qualify for it, letting them choose how to spend it. That way taxpayers can reduce the bureaucratic overhead (and sometimes corporate welfare) involved in administering the program; and tha … [Read more...]

“The Criminalization of Parenthood”: Radley Balko

again some more: A couple of themes we explore here at The Watch are the increasing criminalization of just about everything and the use of the criminal justice system to address problems that were once (and better) handled by families, friends, communities and other institutions. A few examples from recent headlines show those themes intersecting with parenthood.The first story comes from South Carolina, where a mother was jailed and charged with “unlawful conduct toward a child” for . . . … [Read more...]

Painting the Town Red: “The Exiles,” A Masterpiece of Lost L.A.

Kent MacKenzie's The Exiles played exactly once, at the 1961 Venice Film Festival, and then vanished for more than forty years. It was rediscovered in 2003, and you can find it now on Netflix--which you should do, for real, here's why.The Exiles follows a group of American Indian men and women over the course of one night at the very end of noir-era Los Angeles. The neighborhood where the film was shot was demolished--excuse me, I mean renewed--shortly afterward. The Native actors were … [Read more...]

From Zero Tolerance to Restorative Justice in Schools

Expanding pilot programs is often dicey, for reasons which go beyond funding concerns; but this good, short overview should expand imaginations about what's possible for troubled schools: Before 2006, when Debora Borges-Carrera became the principal at Kensington Creative & Performing Arts High School (KCAPA) in north Philadelphia, the school was the scene of pandemonium. Not a day seemed to go by without a fight in the concrete stairwell. Kids sent to the principal’s office for disrupting c … [Read more...]


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