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Students strip-searched on D.C. jail tour

June 8, 2001 | Page 4

Dear Socialist Worker,

It's hard to imagine our education and prison systems sinking to new lows, but that's exactly what has happened recently in Washington, D.C.

On May 17, nine of 13 boys from Evans Middle School took a tour of a D.C. jail and were subjected to strip searches by corrections officers. When the news reported the story, other students came forward with similar stories.

The tours are outrageous--including handcuffing and shackling, forced strip searches and strip searches in front of inmates. "I felt scared," said eighth-grade student Domonique Whittiker. "[The guards] were cussing and hollering at us. They said if we don't take off our clothes, they were going to beat us and make us take them off."

Thirteen-year-old José Ross described the experience of one of his friends. "He didn't want to take off his shirt, and a big guard grabbed him by his shirt and took it off. 'Get off! Get off! I ain't taking my pants off,'" screamed José's friend. "Then [he] was put into a jail jumpsuit and tennis shoes, and the guard took him back with the inmates."

In-school suspension coordinator Dorothy Simpkins set up the tours to discipline misbehaving students. In a letter to the jail requesting the tours, she said she wanted students to "experience the way they will live when [they] are punished by the law."

Children have it rough enough already--with many subjected to poverty, inadequate health care and overcrowded schools. Sending students on humiliating and inhumane prison tours can only add to the intense pressure they face on a daily basis.

It's time for the government to stop solving problems with more prisons and punishment, and start providing our children with the resources they need to live a happy and sane life.

John Coursey, Washington, D.C.

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