The CHS Criminal Justice 1 and 2 classes got the opportunity to spend a day in the Roger D. Wilson Detention Facility on November 19. The trip follow ups on the end of their unit learning about jails and prisons.
Criminal Justice teacher Mr. Pacifico took students on the field trip to show what a jail looks like on the inside and how it operates. He wanted them to experience firsthand what they studied in class, “nothing beats that.” Mr. Pacifico also wanted to portray law enforcement in a positive light and exhibit how it is an absolute profession that requires many people and should be seen as honorable.
Due to the large number of students, the group was split in two. One group was lead by Mr. Pacifico, and the other by Mrs. Rutig. Each group saw the same prison, but their experiences revealed stark differences.
Mrs. Rutig’s group was impressed and shocked with the overall functionality of the prison. They did not expect its grand size, how high tech the facility was, how clean the area was kept, and how friendly officers were. One of the attendees Nadia Williams was impressed with how much effort went into running the facility, describing a “whole inside operation you don’t think about.”
The class toured a jail, not a prison. Nadia Williams had a good clarification of the two, “Jail is where they house misdemeanors and hold people for trails. Prisons house felons and long sentences anytime over a year.” The jail was separated into different security clearances, with each clearance represented by a different colored jumpsuit.
Majority of the inmates were classified as minimum to medium clearance. Being classified as minimum clearance gave inmates all types of freedoms from buying food and necessities from the Commissary, to having access to mp3 players, as well as having the ability to hold a job and have open areas to recreate. Inmates classified as minimum had offenses such as not paying a ticket, or not paying child support.
Mrs. Rutig’s group stated that they felt overwhelmed by the mental facility, and they were shocked by how upsetting it was to see. Ella Wilds explained there were people in the mental ward yelling and clearly not in a good mental state, “it was kind of depressing.” Many were not prepared to see inmates struggling and having a hard time trying to come off meth. Students learned that the increased inmate population in this area was due partially to the closing of a mental facility that left some patients on the street. Many such former patients wound up arrested and placed in jail.
The medical ward portion of the tour proved to be difficult for many students. Mr. Pacifico hoped it was eye opening regarding the destructive power of drug abuse. He disclosed that the majority of students were surprised by how badly drugs damaged the lives of those inmates affected.
During Mr. Pacifico’s tour, students observed a few especially intense moments among the inmates. As they shuffled past these scenes and into the medical ward, the students were warned it may smell bad. However, junior Gabe Katz said the overall cleanliness of the jail was “pretty wicked clean.” While in the medical ward, the Corporal leading that part of the tour received word of a fight and rushed off to respond.
Both groups agreed on the fact that if in minimum security, inmates had an abundant amount of freedom and were allowed out of cells frequently. However, Mrs. Rutig’s group described how the jail was overcrowded, intended to house 1070, but currently housing 1300. Thus, many cells had up to three people living in them when it was built for only one or two. Part of the overcrowding was due to the recent closing of a mental facility.
Overall, the two groups covered the same ground, just each experienced, heard, and saw, several different elements. Both groups agreed that they were shocked and surprised on what went on behind closed doors. Gabe Katz described jail as nothing like it is on TV.
A lot of effort goes into running a jail. The CHS Criminal Justice classes were able to experience that first hand. Their accounts give insight to others about the facilitation of jail.
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