A Quick Trip to the Jail
February 11, 2019
On Thursday, January 24th, Pierson held its annual trip to the Riverhead jail. This is a day-long trip open to sophomores and juniors, that consists of attending the YES program at the jail. Last year, all I’d hear from the sophomores is how much fun they had on this trip, so when the trip got announced I couldn’t wait to go. Though some past attendees had explained their fear of the trip and expressed that they didn’t enjoy it, in my opinion, all the good reviews I’d heard were correct, and the trip definitely lived up to its expectations.
The bus left school around 8:30 AM, which is right after the first period, and didn’t get back till around 2:00 PM. I’d say the scariest part of the trip was the initial driving up to the jail because everything suddenly felt real. Not to mention, the heavy rain and dark sky added to the scariness of the building we were about to enter. The waiting room seemed friendly enough and surprisingly smelt more like a pool than you’d expect a jail too. The guard that would be leading us around explained some things about the jail and the kinds of prisoners in it, then we all got hand stamped and went through security. Once we’d all been informed of the rules and everyone was ready to go, the tour began.
First, we were led into a holding cell and had the doors shut on us. This act was supposed to frighten us all, but mostly everyone was just commenting on the weird smell. After that, we were led upstairs to where the really scary part was to happen. We were on the floor where they held the men, and the guard read to us a list of all the crimes committed by people we were going to walk past. Already having been informed on what walking through the cell areas would entail, I’d say the majority of us were pretty prepared. After seeing the men we went upstairs to see the women, which lived up to what the past attendees had said, it was much scarier. Unlike the sporadic shouts made by the men, the women yelled at us without stopping during the entire walk-around. Having finished the tour around the cells, we were lead to the jail’s chapel, where we’d be having a meeting with six prisoners. In walked three men and three women, all of whom we had previously seen in their cells. All six of them told us their life stories and gave us life advice, which was very informational. There was then a Q&A, where we were able to ask any questions we wanted, “no questions off limits” as the guard had said earlier. After this the prisoners were led out of the room, then we were led back into the waiting room and back onto the bus.
The whole point of the program the jail puts on, the YES program, and the reason for schools to go is to give kids a reason to stay safe and out of jail. Though a huge amount of research has proven that the idea of being “scared straight” isn’t effective, this program is put on to not only “scare” the students but to inform us on what jail life is like. A big reason this method is thought to be effective is that the prisoners believe we are bad kids that already as teenagers are leading to a life that could bring us to jail. They believe this simply because no one has told them otherwise. To the prisoners, we are all a small bad act away from landing ourselves in jail, so they tell us about how much they regret their past and how they would never wish jail life on anyone. As to whether I think this method works or not, I truly doubt it. Students view the jail trip as fun, and maybe even a source of entertainment. Taking into consideration that, for the most part, we aren’t bad kids a single misstep away from jail time, though we are listening, we aren’t really taking all the advice to heart. Despite this method not really being effective on a random group of kids from Sag Harbor, to a group of kids that actually are close to jail, the YES program could be very helpful and keep them out of trouble.
I personally think all of the fear associated with this trip is well worth it, because the end result of the trip was very enjoyable. Not only was this an entertaining and long field trip, but it was actually extremely informational. I think anyone and everyone can benefit from attending the jail trip, and everyone that has the opportunity definitely should.