Juwan Z. Bennett: Disrupting the School-to-Prison Pipeline

Juwan Bennett

Temple University doctoral candidate Juwan Z. Bennett is a post-doctoral research associate at the Center for Urban Education (CUE) at the University of Pittsburgh School of Education.

He studies the relationship between K-12 education and carcerality—a relationship that several communities associate with school-to-prison pipelines or the school-prison nexus.

“Criminology is a fairly new discipline,” says Bennett. “Until now, the focus has been on law enforcement, on police, on the courts, and fighting crime. At CUE, it's exciting because we are uncovering the merged logics of criminology and education to locate possibilities for transformation.”

A Philadelphia native, Bennett originally planned to become a police officer. Both his father and brother work in law enforcement. However, his participation in the McNair Scholars program set him on the path to graduate school instead of the policy academy. 

Now Bennett is making his own impact. 

At Temple, he founded the university’s Urban Youth Leadership Academy. The initiative prepares middle school students from inner-city schools for high school placement and college admissions. 

At CUE, he is the managing editor of a new book titled “Freedom Struggles in Urban Appalachia: Resisting Pittsburgh Schools, Prison, and Carcerality.” The book will be published in the University of Kentucky Press. Bennett will also support CUE Summer Educator Forum (CUESEF) programming and further develop his research with incarcerated persons.

“While there have been several books on the school-to-prison pipeline and education and carcerality, this book focuses on local understandings of Pittsburgh,” says Bennett. “It’s not just an academic book; it is a book that has contributions from poets, artists, and community members in addition to academics.” 

After graduating from Temple University, Bennett will begin a faculty position at the University of Cincinnati School of Criminal Justice in fall 2022.

He will bring with him lessons learned from his experiences at CUE. 

“The collaborative spirit at CUE allows us to be on the cutting edge of what it means to understand schools and prisons,” says Bennett. “We need people who are bold enough to be on the front lines to direct change.”

What’s a fun fact about him that people might not know? 

Bennett plays jazz trumpet and piano. In 2009, President Barack Obama came to a campaign event in Philadelphia. Bennett and his peers played for him at a cocktail party.

“He waved to us and talked to us. It was a splendid moment,” says Bennett.