School District Saves Millions By Consolidating With Prison

Martha Throebeck on Thursday, February 5, 2004

from the replacing-paddling-with-solitary-confinement dept.

"Most students won't be able to tell the difference," says superintendent from his new watchtower office.

CHARLESTON -- In an effort to save money and more efficiently use space, the Charleston School District and the Missouri Department of Corrections have partnered to create the Mississippi County Unified School-Prison District No. 1, believed to be the first of its kind in the country.

"It's a win-win situation," explained the newly appointed Warden Superintendent. We can house students and prisoners under the same roof. Inmates can enroll in free classes, and we can punish troublemaking students by assigning them to medium-security after-school suspension."

While many parents and teachers have expressed reservations about the new program, school and prison officials argue that the immediate financial savings make the idea too good to pass up.

"By combining forces, we can save money on such things as transportation (school busses can also transport prisoners), on cafeteria services (students and inmates can be fed in the same place -- at different times, of course), and on discipline (misbehaving inmates will be forced to sit through lectures, while misbehaving students will be forced to sit in holding cells). With all of the benefits, I can't believe this program hasn't already been done!"

The idea originated with the chairman of the Charleston School Board, who realized that schools and prisons share much in common. "Both feature constant surveillance of their customers, zero tolerance policies against weapons such as nail clippers, mandatory attendance rules, required uniforms and dress codes, extremely short recess and exercise periods, and a total lack of respect for civil rights. Obviously, the two institutions were meant for each other."

Despite reassurances by school-prison officials, however, some parents have threatend to move to another district. "I don't want my son in near proximity to convicts who might teach him how to make methamphetamine from old newspaper clippings and lye soap. I don't want my kid exposed to such poor role models!"

Administrators, however, are quick to point out that students and prisoners will be separated for much of the day by reinforced bomb-resistant doors and electrified high-voltage fences. "And if we lose power, guards armed with cattle prods will be depoyed to prevent unauthorized escapes by prisoners and/or students."

"I'm still leery about this," said one concerned parent. "Will colleges accept students that graduate from Charleston Prison High School? I don't want to spend 30 minutes explaining to every college admissions officer that my son isn't a convicted felon."