A Trend to Prison-Like Schools?

The People
October 14, 1995
Vol. 105 No. 12



Politicians across the country are slashing public education funds to protect the profits of the tax-paying capitalist class. At the same time--despite its proven failure as a "crime-fighting" measure--they are also funding the biggest buildup of prisons in the nation's history because capitalism has no other "solution" to the crime bred by the growing poverty and misery the system produces.

"Forward-thinking" municipal servants and school district officials in Dallas, however, seem to have hit on another approach--cut down on schools AND prisons by building schools as though they ARE prisons.

The school year opened in Dallas last month with a new "magnet" school that THE NEW YORK TIMES recently described in terms that would please many a prison warden. Appropriately located next to the Dallas County Probation Department, the "sprawling new building...has 37 surveillance cameras, six metal detectors, five full-time police officers and a security-conscious configuration based on the principles of crime prevention through environmental design," the TIMES observed.

There are "no nooks or crannies around which to hide," the TIMES noted. "Perimeter lights illuminate all public spaces and an eight-foot iron-pole fence seals off the school from an adjacent residential area," the TIMES added. Halls are broad and well-lit to enable security cameras an unobstructed view and prevent bumping as a source of fights.

Further, "The room that houses the mainframes for the school's computer system is a security command post, where officers scan 37 cameras monitoring the building and grounds." Thanks to windows everywhere, the grounds are visible from anywhere inside.

Townview, the $41-million school in question, is already being hailed as a model for schools across the nation. But can patrols and surveillance really halt growing violence in the schools, or is this experiment destined to become just another failure of repression as an answer to crime?

Time will tell, but certain factors are already known. Repression hasn't halted growing violence outside the schools, and the schools ARE a microcosm of the world around them. Figures from the National School Safety Center show that during the 1993-1994 school year 46 students were killed on school grounds during the school day. Moreover, 3 million felonies and misdemeanors are committed at schools annually, and the severity of crimes has increased.

It must be remembered that most violent crimes are crimes of passion, and all the forms of punishment capitalism has been able to come up with have not been able to overcome the alienation, despair, frustration and social anarchy that breeds violent crime. Haven't the Dallas "city fathers" even heard of plastic guns and bullets, or the martial arts? In the final analysis, Townview is a telling commentary on the sickness of the capitalist system--a system whose solution to growing crime in the schools is to treat students like prisoners.
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