- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 31, 2001

Three times a week, the D.C. Jail opens its doors to students. Many of these students are there for civics lessons about law and order and the judicial process, while some others are rascals there to be scared straight. While these so-called tours have been going on for a decade, city officials learned just last week from The Washington Post that something quite horrid has been going on as well.

Boys from Evans Middle School say they were stripped, searched and forced to wear prison garb during a visit to the jail on May 17. They complained to their chaperones, who are school aides, and to the guards, but to no avail. Students and school staffers also complained to their principal, who failed to act on their complaints. The principal´s failure to act opened the door for the girls´ visit the following day, on May 18, when, the girls say, they were harassed and forced to disrobe in a segregated cell block and one girl was shackled and handcuffed to demonstrate the cold facts of prison life. There they came eye-to-eye with another nasty picture. "I told the security guard that the man was masturbating in front of the girls," Angela Harvin, an Evans school aide told The Post. "He didn´t care that the girls were there."

Well, the girls´ parents care, and now they are threatening, to the surprise of absolutely no one, to sue the city. Also, the FBI is investigating to determine whether the youths´ civil rights were violated and whether any other criminal offenses occurred (sexual or otherwise). For their part, school Superintendent Paul Vance and Corrections Department Chief Odie Washington have taken steps, including firing the warden of the jail and three guards. The tours have been suspended, and several school employees have been placed on administrative leave, including the principal. Firing the whole lot of them might have been more appropriate.

The bottom line is that lecturing hard-headed teen-agers about the repercussions of thug life is one thing. Preying on them and violating their rights is an entirely different matter.


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