Critical Exposure is a program based in Washington, DC that fights the school to prison pipeline. Students involved in the program got together to document important images that they felt illustrated the harsh practices and militarization of public schools. These images are incredibly powerful, especially since they come from youth who experience this daily.

Here are some examples:



“The teachers can go through the gate without being stopped, and students are stopped and asked to show a pass. Students are treated like they’re prisoners. They already have to be escorted by a teacher to get through.” — Karl L.

Ban the Scans 


“This photo represents what we have to go through before entering our school everyday. I think it’s uncalled for, and nine times out of 10, if any violence … would occur it would be outside the school. According to DCLY [D.C. Lawyers For Youth] high quality mentoring for every D.C. child between 10-17 years old would cost $63 million, versus … paying $305 million just to incarcerate them.” – Sean “Lucky” W.

The Blind Pipeline Youth Cannot See


“This photo represents how some African American youth are on a path to prison that they can’t see or don’t know when it’s coming. The reason I say that is because most of us are expected to go to prison sometime in life. Statistics say one out of three African American males will go to prison in their life. In elementary school us African American youth are predicted to go to prison or jail based on standardized test scores and suspension rates.” – Sean “Lucky” W.

The Everyday Routine


“Everyday students have to enter through the auditorium doors and place their backpacks on the X-Ray machine. Then they walk through the metal detector to meet their bag on the other side and then must wait for the bags to be searched by a security guard. This makes students feel as if we’re going inside a jail to meet someone, or as if the staff sees us as criminals. Statistics show that 70 percent of students [who are] involved in ‘in-school’ arrests or are referred to law enforcement are black or Latino. If DCPS [D.C. Public Schools] wants to lower these numbers then why do we have the same procedures of entering a jail [instead of] a comforting environment of being welcomed to school?” – Mike

Here’s the link to see more of the photos:


3 responses »

  1. tylercohentyco says:

    The mentoring vs. incarceration price estimate is baffling to me. With the amount of money they spend policing kids there could be a plethora of resources made available to them which would help them with school. Imagine free laptops and super high quality free school lunch for all students instead of metal detectors and metal barriers. From these images students seem to be treated both as prisoners and as animals on a factory farm.

    • rbhalla2018 says:

      Totally! It costs way more money to incarcerate youth than to educate them. The California Endowment states it costs $63,200 to incarcerate one youth a year. That’s the same amount of money it would cost to put 3 youth through college in California without any debt.

      Money plays an important role in this issue. It costs a substantially large amount of money for governments to incarcerate youth than to create education programs that would stop/lessen the school to prison pipeline. The reason the government does not put the money towards education is because the government and the private sector makes billions of dollars a year off of paying prisoners less than minimum wage for the work they do.

      It’s incredibly ridiculous and illustrates the role of capitalism in the prison industrial complex!

  2. haircomestrouble says:

    What has this country come to? It’s one thing to hear about it, it’s another thing to see the pictures. When you start the institutionalizing process as children, what can you expect of them as adults?

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