Students See Prison Life Up Close at the Bergen County Jail

The Law and Public Safety Academy at DMAE took the learning out of the classroom on Tuesday, May 13, 2014, on a field trip to the Bergen County Jail in Hackensack, NJ. Program Manager Roselyn Powell set up the educational field trip for students in this academy to experience what life is like for both prisoners and police officers.

“We study law and law enforcement and crime. At the jail, students get to see what things are like in real life,” Ms. Powell said.

Students toured the jail facilities after removing all electronics and jackets. They walked through hallways and saw through large windows to common rooms where inmates were allowed to spend time together before returning to their cells.

“It was terrifying at first, especially since any inmate we came across was forced to face the walls with his hands up,” junior Jillian Royal said.

Students learned that the inmates were kept in narrow jail cells with little to no privacy regarding showers or even going to the bathroom. On a set schedule, prisoners wake up, eat their meals, have recreation time in an enclosed area outside, and go to sleep. Students learned other facts about prison life on the tour, but also from prisoners themselves.

“The best part about the field trip is at the end when police officers bring in inmates to tell their stories to the students,” Ms. Powell explained.

This year a 23-year old woman spoke about how she was once a “goody-two-shoes” in high school and never used drugs, but when she went to college she went out of control. She partied and drank the nights away, and this eventually led to her arrest.

“I think the law trip to the Bergen County Jail was an amazing experience for many reasons,” junior Genesis Guzman said. “It was an eye opener to what jail was really like inside instead of how the television depicts it. It also gave me an insight to their surroundings and every day jobs at the jail,” she explained.