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

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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