Still Preppin’ for Prison


Metal detectors at the schoolhouse door. Handcuffs in the classroom. Overly zealous enforcement on typical teenage behavior. Years before the New York Civil Liberties Union released its landmark report “Criminalizing the Classroom,” the Voice’s own Adamma Ince reported that New York was turning its schools into a penal colony.

In Preppin’ for Prison, dated June 12, 2001, she wrote :

[The] prison-like system sometimes causes more problems than it prevents.

Last October, Raymone, a 14-year-old who’s being raised by his mother, ran into trouble when he tried to enter Prospect Heights High School without his ID. An unarmed safety agent told him that without a card, he’d have to leave.

What happened next isn’t clear. An assistant principal says the safety agent reported that Raymone started pushing him. Raymone claims an officer shoved him toward the door. “He just kept pushing me and saying, ‘You gotta leave,’ even though he knew I belonged there. I walked through those doors every day, but he didn’t care. So I got mad and I pulled away from him.

“Next thing I know we’re stumbling, and nine other guards are all over me, and glass from a window nearby is crashing everywhere. I was scared and mad, but I couldn’t do anything. The guard said I punched him, so they cuffed me and took me to the precinct.”

When his mother arrived at her job in the U.S. Treasury Department, a coworker handed her a message saying that her son was being held at the 71st Precinct. “My heart dropped when I got to the precinct,” she says. “My child’s neck, wrists, and back were bruised. Buttons were torn off his shirt. I wasn’t able to protect him, and it was the worst pain I’ve ever felt. And for what? Just because he didn’t have an ID?”

Scary then, scary now.

Further reading:
Nat Hentoff’s “The Mayor and His Shock Troops
Bob Herbert’s “Harassed in the Classroom” (NYT Select)